Sidewalk sales, disorderly tenants discussed

Sidewalk sales and disorderly tenants were the focus of the Bethany Beach’s July 20 Charter and Ordinance Review Committee (CORC) meeting.

The committee took up the matter of sidewalk sales first. CORC member John Gaughan pointed out that “sidewalk sales” could be divided into two distinct issues: (1) merchants routinely displaying merchandise in the public right-of-way, and (2) the town setting aside certain specific days for all merchants to set their sale items outside their stores.

CORC committee members observed that, as to the first, while it was legal under Bethany’s Code for store owners to display merchandise outdoors on their own property, it was not legal for them to merchandise store items in the public right of way — on that part of the sidewalk outside their property.

Stu Eisenman — owner of several Bethany stores, including Kites, Tails and Toys, and The Bethany Trading Company — was present at the meeting to address the sidewalk sale issue. First, he noted that neither he nor other Bethany merchants abused their rights by displaying their wares in the public way. CORC committee members agreed that this had not become a problem.

Eisenman further noted that being able to market items outside his stores but inside the property lines greatly increased sales.

As to the issue of having designated “sidewalk sale days,” whereby merchants would be permitted to merchandise goods in the public right-of-way, the committee members decided that such days should be limited to the off-season. In total agreement, Eisenman said he felt that it would be “crazy” to hold sidewalk sales in the summer season, when the sidewalks were already congested with summer visitors.

CORC members devoted more meeting time to the problem caused by noisy and disorderly tenants. One member pointed out that there was already a section of the Town Code (Section 175.11) which imposes civil penalties on both property owners and tenants for tenants’ disorderly conduct. Some consideration was given to the possibility of revoking a property owner’s rental license once police had responded to repeated complaints by neighbors about excessive disturbances coming from a particular rental property.

Ultimately, CORC members decided to deal initially with the noisy tenant problem through discussion with town officials and police about more rigorous enforcement of Section 175.11 of the Code. They also decided to consider at a future meeting whether to amend this section to include stiffer penalties against property owners who rent repeatedly to disorderly tenants.

A third article of new business addressed by the CORC members was developing a model mission statement. Prior to the July 20 meeting, Bethany Beach Mayor Jack Walsh had asked CORC to develop a basic format for mission statements to be used by all Bethany committees, which write their own such statements. Several members of CORC agreed to undertake the task of drafting the requested model mission statement.

There were two items of old business.

One was an update on the status of the overhaul of Bethany Beach’s code book. Noting that a major update had been approved by the Town Council, Chairman Lew Killmer stated, “It is a living document … and will always allow for revision.”

The other item of old business was CORC’s proposed changes to Chapter 238 of the Town Code, on stormwater management. These changes updating the section with references to current “best practices” were presented to the Town Council at its July 21 meeting and were also to be sent to the town attorney for review.