Vote on impervious surfaces delayed again in South Bethany

There was a little confusion about Ordinance 150-09 at South Bethany’s monthly council meeting, held last Friday. The proposed ordinance, 150-09, Chapter 145, Zoning, Article IV, is titled “General Provisions” and would add § 145-14.3, “Covering allowed in setback area” to address impervious surfaces in lots’ setback areas.

The purpose of the ordinance is to allow more rain water to percolate into the soil, with less chance that it goes straight into the canals by adding the guidelines regarding impervious surfaces in the setback area.

Resident Jack Wise asked at the Sept. 11 council meeting whether pine needles were going to be prohibited. Councilman John Fields said pine needles “are fine,” and that the part of the ordinance that specified types of allowable surfaces – namely gravel, shells and grass – had, in fact, been taken out of the ordinance.

“We are working on how to phrase that, if at all,” said Fields. “You raised a good point,” he said, reiterating that they were talking about limiting impervious surfaces, and pine needles wouldn’t be an issue.

Resident Bob Apollo questioned whether the council was following the correct guidelines for adopting the ordinance itself. He said he had asked if there were rules and procedures for passing an ordinance and had been told there were not. He then raised a piece of paper containing guidelines about how the council takes votes – traditionally, after three readings – and asked Mayor Gary Jayne, “Why don’t you know about this?”

Jayne said he had misunderstood Apollo’s question and that the document Apollo had found simply describes the council’s usual process and wasn’t part of the town charter concerning ordinances, which is what he said he thought Apollo had been referring to.

Apollo then said that, with six council members present and three voting “no,” it was impossible to enact the ordinance. “I want to know how can you postpone the vote if it called for a vote at the third meeting, May 8?”

Fields then said the ordinance was not something that had been voted on yet, to which Apollo replied, “I think there is some hanky-panky going on in this council.”

“Let me get this straight,” said Jayne, “On May 8, we had the third reading?”

Fields interjected “no,” and said that was either the first or second reading.

Apollo then asked to approach the council and showed them in the minutes where it stated that it was the third reading of the ordinance at the May 8 council meeting.

“What is your problem?” inquired Jayne. “We are going to have to look into this. Are you dissatisfied with the ordinance itself or the process? If we went back to ground zero to start over with a first and second reading, do you have specific comments on the content of the ordinance?”

Apollo replied that he expected the council to “follow the law.” He also asserted that Fields “falsely called me an idiot, and now I call him a liar,” before Mayor Jayne said that they had heard enough and the issue would not be settled that night.

Apollo had spoken about the ordinance in previous meetings and questioned the council’s wording in the ordinance that mandates that the construction of interlocking pavers per ICPI construction standards, since ICPI is simply a trade organization.

According to minutes available online, the town had a first reading of the ordinance, declared such by Jayne, on March 13, 2009. After making some changes to the original ordinance, a second reading, on April 9, 2009, was declared by Mayor Pro Tem Marge Gassinger. On May 8, Jayne called for a vote, but a motion was put forth by Fields and seconded by Councilman Jay Headman to postpone the third reading of the ordinance “pending further review.” That motion was adopted, and changes have since been made to the proposed ordinance.

In other news from the Sept. 11 meeting:

• The town had received news about its 2009-fiscal-year audit. Tom Sombar of Sombar & Company said the town was on “pretty sound financial footing. Obviously, there’s some erosion, but nothing to get alarmed about. We obviously don’t want that depression to get worse.”

Fields asked what a good amount of reserves for the town would be, and Sombar answered that six months – which the town has – “is adequate, but one could argue that it is not. You don’t want to go lower than you are right now.”

Councilman Tim Saxton pointed out that the town had gone through 47 percent of its reserves in the last four years. “The town should know what this council is faced with. We are trying to hold it at that.”

Resident Al Rae asked that, other than the reserves issue, what specific recommendations the firm had, to which Sombar replied, “more streamlining, more timely record-keeping, nothing really that critical. The town is very well-run.”

He did mention that separation of duties – for instance, a different person depositing checks than had signed them – is always something auditors like to see. A similar recommendation had been made last week to Ocean View’s council regarding “separation of duties” and has even been acknowledged as a shortcoming in Bethany Beach, which always receives stellar audit reports. The shortcoming is due to the small size of the towns’ finance and administrative staffs.

“So, good, fair, poor?” asked Jayne, to which Sombar answered, “good-minus,” and “There’s always room for improvement.”

• Among their other duties for the month of August, the police department assisted the Fenwick Island Police Department in rescuing a man that they had found in one of the town’s canals. They rescued him with a borrowed pontoon boat. The man was found to have six illegal substances in his body, including PCP, police said. In total, they had 75 complaints for the month. The FIPD is in the process of seeking grant funding for its own marine unit (a boat).

• Resident Jack Wise asked the council if they had any guidance on what to do with recycling bins, and Jayne answered that they needed to be off the street within 24 hours on each side of pick-up time.

• Jayne advised the town that he had attended the quarterly meeting for the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company’s ambulance service and the service’s sponsors had approved their budget, which starts Oct. 1. He said they did a good job of adhering to last year’s budget and there would be no increase for this year. He also reported that they had responded to 877 calls in the not-quite eight months they had been up and running.

• Volunteers can still participate in Coastal Cleanup at South Bethany on South 2nd Street. Interested volunteers who have not yet registered can still help by showing up there on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 9 a.m.

• Town Manager Mel Cusik reported that there was some damage at the beach on the east side of the dune because of last week’s nor’easter. Beach entrances at Indian, Jamaica, Kiwani and Logan streets were closed.

• Saxton reported that the town would be forming an Ad Hoc Finance Committee with two council members and up to three property owners. Interested parties can apply online at

• The Town of South Bethany’s 40th Anniversary Celebration will be held Sept. 26, from 3 to 5 p.m. at town hall.

• The September council workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 22, and the council moved its October workshop to Wednesday, Oct. 29.