Fenwick Island hopes to capture town’s history

The Fenwick Island Town Council is weighing the pros and cons of establishing a historical committee within the town.

“If we do decide on assigning a committee,” said Mayor Audrey Serio during discussions at the monthly council meeting Dec. 14, “before they started work, they’d have to have guidelines and understand what their powers are and are not.”

“What happened recently in the past few weeks – and this may be the only one we have in town – but the owner of an aged house in the area is willing to put the money into it himself to restore it to its original state, and open it up to tourists,” said Council Member Bill Weistling, one of the initial advocates of creating the historical committee. “It’s a unique situation, where setting up a historic committee to come in and take a look at places like this may be beneficial to the town.”

“We can at least start to distinguish parameters for this committee,” added Weistling, “things like determining how old the house should be, whether it has special character of historical or aesthetic value in the town, or if it possesses distinct characteristics from the styles of architecture and structure that were used.”

“I happen to love history,” said Council Member Vicki Carmean, who was also in support of establishing the new organization, “and there are a lot of people who don’t want change and want things to stay the same. But some of these buildings that made Fenwick so special so many years ago are being torn down for new structures.

“To an extent, I understand why these changes are occurring, but we can probably hang onto a little bit of the past so we can become unique in understanding where the town is,” Carmean added.

There were a number of specifications for the potential group that others expressed at last Friday’s meeting.

“I’d like to make sure that responsibilities encompass the entire town, commercial and residential,” said Council Member Chris Clark. “As far as guidelines of authority, the committee should report directly to the planning commission. One of the first things they should be charged with is conducting a historic survey and report, and reporting their result findings and potential action to the planning commission in such a way that it will assist them further with the comprehensive plan.”

“One of the main concerns is that this group can’t become too controlling,” said Serio. “There has been a pattern in other towns before. If someone wants to preserve something, they can then approach the committee, but the committee should not be preventing action to be taken just because they find something to be historical. It can be a big issue if we don’t go about it properly. We have to make sure they know exactly what their job is.”

Weistling, Carmean and Town Manager Tony Carson were assigned to help establish the historical committee, comparing roles of historical organizations in other towns to determine proper responsibilities. If members of the public are interested in participating, they are being encouraged to approach council in upcoming meetings with their input.