Fenwick environmentalists study options

The Fenwick Island Environmental Committee met on Wednesday, March 12, at town hall to discuss a number of environmental issues, including their “tree triage” program, ways to save on energy, how to get to the town’s population of renters to participate in the new townwide curbside recycling program, and whether the town should look at increasing limits on smoking on the beach and town property.

Committee member, town staffer and grant coordinator Agnes DiPietrantonio said that residents who signed up to receive a tree under Fenwick Island’s Tree Triage Program must either come to town hall to pick their tree up on March 29 or send a proxy. Also, at 10 a.m. on that day, the committee will host a talk on the importance of trees, featuring Dorothy Abbott of the Extension for Renewable Resources at the University of Delaware Extension Service. The Saturday, March 29, event is free and open to the public and all citizens are being encouraged to attend.

DiPietrantonio also noted that Fenwick Island is an Arbor Day Foundation Tree City U.S.A. designee and has declared April 25, 2008, as Arbor Day for the town.

Councilwoman and committee member Vicki Carmean discussed using landscape consultant Chantal Bouchard of Nature Design to re-design the marquee area at town hall using native plants. Bouchard, who is the former horticulturalist for the Town of Bethany Beach, had a hand in the design of the Bethany Fenwick Chamber of Commerce’s Native Plant Demonstration Garden and plantings in the Town of South Bethany in her independent venture.

As proposed, the design for the Fenwick Island marquee area would use such plantings as Indian Hawthorn, Standard Crape Myrtle, Sabal Minor, Panicum “Heavy Metal,” Yucca Filamentosa and Purple Love Grass.

The committee on March 12 also discussed street light “pollution” and what they could propose to save the town in energy and money. Carmean offered a light pollution review and questioned the need for individual street lights with a street light survey. She said the current monthly charges for street light operations is roughly $1,000.

Co-Chair Buzz Henifin suggested drafting an ordinance separating home lights and street lights in how the town regulates lighting, since Town Manager Tony Carson stated that the town does currently have a home lighting ordinance.

Committee and council member Chris Clark said the committee would review the current ordinance to see if it needs revision. He said that, if the committee decided they did need a revised ordinance, they could invite a representative from the power company to talk with the Charter & Ordinance Committee about the town’s street lights.

The committee also discussed and will present a proposal to reduce visual clutter from overhead wires and to increase residential safety by requiring the burial of utility lines in new construction and certain remodels. Henifin said committee members would have 10 days to look over the draft ordinance as written and if there were no changes, they would present it to Charter & Ordinance for consideration.

With townwide curbside recycling firmly in place, Carson reported to the committee that, in January, Fenwick Island recycled 9,000 pounds or an average of 49 pounds per household, which was double December’s numbers. The committee discussed how to get out the word on the program to homeowners who rent their properties so that the success of curbside recycling can continue into the summer season.

Councilman and committee member Todd Smallwood asked if their was a way to cross-reference renter licenses with homeowners that have already signed up for recycling, and the committee discussed large refrigerator magnets, letters to homeowners that rent and also letters to Realtors as ways of spreading the word on recycling to renters.

Henifin also brought up the possibility of inviting a representative from DSWA to come and talk to residents about the current curbside recycling and to answer any questions they may have about what is recyclable and what is not.

Also discussed on March 12 were publications from the Maryland Bays and Coastal Bays of Maryland that contain information about geographically pertinent things towns like Fenwick Island can do to help the environment, such as bayside and canal care, proper yard waste disposal and composting, and the fact that healthier lawns equal healthier waters.

During the discussion, Clark suggested possibly implementing an ordinance prohibiting certain types of fertilizer, but Henifin responded that increased public knowledge was all they were aiming to accomplish at the moment.

“We don’t want to do too much,” said Henifin. “We just want to bring awareness.”

Henifin also mentioned that the Center for Inland Bays’ native plant sale will be held at James Farm from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 3.

The meeting wrapped up with Carson presenting the notion of a smoking ban on town property and in town vehicles. A possible smoking prohibition for the beach was discussed as well.

Carmean suggested they take a “watch and see” approach with regards to draft legislation in nearby Bethany Beach that would prohibit smoking on most of the beach, boardwalk and town parks for all or part of the year, with designated smoking areas at certain locations on the beach. That legislation was due to be formally introduced on Thursday, March 20, in Bethany Beach.

Carmean said Fenwick could hold a first reading on a possible ban and, because it seems the trend in nearby areas, “people might as well get used to the idea.”

The committee also discussed the idea of a “Go Green” column in the town’s official Fenwick Island News (FIN) and Fenwick Island Society of Homeowners (FISH) newsletters, as well as a “Go Green” motto on the town bulletin board and Web site.

The next Fenwick Island Town Council meeting will be held Friday, March 28, at 3:30 p.m., and the next Environmental Committee meeting will be held April 9 at 2 p.m., both at town hall.