South Bethany considers run-off ordinances

The South Bethany Town Council opened the floor of their March 13 meeting for detailed discussion of two new ordinances: 149-09 and 150-09. Both ordinances, sponsored respectively by Councilmen Jay Headman and John Fields, address water run-off and how that water should be distributed.

Over time, nitrates from vehicle emissions, petroleum, pesticides and other chemicals accumulate on houses and streets. When it rains or snows, as water accumulates, these chemicals are carried along with the run-off. When not managed properly, this run-off drains directly into South Bethany’s canals, drastically affecting the canal ecosystem. If the levels of nitrogen and oxygen rise too high, the water becomes a breeding ground for dangerous algae, which can have a detrimental effect on the entire canal system.

Ordinance 149-09 aims to address run-off from drainage gutters and downspouts, amending Chapter 104 of the town code, pertaining to property maintenance. Under the ordinance, rain gutters and downspouts will be prohibited from draining directly into the canals. The ordinance also prohibits showers from draining into the canals, as has sometimes been done in the past. In conjunction with the current aspects of the code, run-off will instead be directed to town-installed drainage systems.

Ordinance 150-09 pertains to impervious materials around a property’s perimeter. According to the ordinance, 65 percent of all setback areas will be required to be pervious, or permeable, to allow water to pass through them. The ordinance also specifies that only pervious material will be permitted within 5 feet of the property boundary on any building lot and requires advance approval to install ground-covering material on a lot.

According to Fields, “Allowing water to pass, or percolate, through ground soil helps to remove some of the harmful chemicals acquired through the run-off process. Most of the houses in South Bethany are already in compliance with all the parameters of this ordinance,” he noted. “Due to poor planning in the past, we now have an ecological problem that we have to address.”

A number of residents present at the meeting were concerned about the new ordinances and said they didn’t feel they had had enough time to properly educate themselves and discuss the matter. As a result, both resolutions were tabled for discussion at a future date.

More information on surface run-off and permeable surfaces can be found online at A wealth of news articles, studies and releases on the effects of nitrogen can also be found by searching for “nitrogen runoff” online. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control also provides information online on algae growth and nitrogen run-off.

South Bethany plans to add a link to their town Web page at, which will link to DNREC’s information on the subject. That link should be used to report any algae blooms.

Also on March 13, Mayor Gary Jayne announced that the Sussex County Council is pursuing federal stimulus money, and South Bethany has submitted a plan to use a portion of those funds.

On May 15, a workshop will be offered on dune management and coastal landscaping, from 9 a.m. until noon at town hall. The following day, May 16, is the annual native plants sale at James Farm, Jayne – a vocal supporter of the Center for the Inland Bays – noted.

The town’s draft budget for the 2010 fiscal year will be presented at the April 9 town council meeting. Due to decline in the local real estate market and a resulting decline in transfer tax revenue and permit and building fees, the town will be forced to pursue alternate sources of revenue. That means that, for the first time in 33 years, the town will be forced to raise property taxes – from 65 cents to $1.65 per $100 of assessed value.

On the bright side, South Bethany officials reported that the town’s operating costs are well below the projected budget for this year, so finances are good, despite the recession.

Parking fees in the town will also be going up. The cost of a parking permit will now be $10, with the cost of a replacement at $15. Up to four permits will be issued to each residence. Day permits will remain at $15.

A beach vendor system will also be implemented this year, offering hotdogs, soda, water, snacks and snow cones. The town will sign a contract with the vendor and will receive a portion of sales.

Work has begun on re-painting the town’s water tower. For the next two to three weeks, workers will be sandblasting and re-painting the tower to remove rust and help preserve the structure. Upon completion of the maintenance, Artesian Water Company is scheduled to sign a contract with Verizon to install a Verizon Wireless signal tower on top of the water tower. That contract will also benefit the town financially.

Finally, Jayne appointed a board of elections for the upcoming May elections. Carolyn Marcello and Betty Vahey were appointed clerks, and Al Buhr will serve as the inspector. The elections themselves will be held on May 23. All three board members were voted in unanimously by town council.