South Bethany reviews vendors, smoking

Neighboring Bethany Beach prohibits beachside vendors, except for the town’s official beach rental concession, but South Bethany has always been relatively open to visits from the ice cream man, the snowball guy and even a farmer or two selling fresh produce from the back of a pickup truck.

That could potentially change in the future, with the town set to consider a policy on such businesses.

Mayor Gary Jayne reported at the council’s July 13 meeting that more vendors had been spotted in recent months along beachfront Ocean Drive.

A single snowball vendor had been the rule in previous years, with a second trying the area in 2006 but not returning in 2007. Jayne said an ice cream truck had begun turning out this year, though, and other vendors had been spotted selling their wares directly on the beach itself.

“We’re going to look into this and see if we need to develop a plan before it gets out of hand,” Jayne said.

Other local towns could be the model for any policy developed in South Bethany, Jayne noted, which could spell trouble for those who hoped to sell to the town’s beachgoers and beachside residents.

Jayne said it was particularly important to consider a policy with beach reconstruction set to begin this fall, since the changed beach landscape could present additional problems.

Already, Jayne said, the safety of children rushing out to meet the snowball and ice cream vendors had been a problem. The town had requested one vendor move the service window in his truck to the left side, to ensure that customers were not forced to cross into Ocean Drive to buy and were out of the roadway while doing so.

Jayne said there were also concerns about making sure that vendors only stopped at official beach crossovers, since stopping mid-block might draw customers to trespass on private property.

Though those concerns are already clear in the minds of town officials, Jayne said there was no plan yet as to how to deal with them. He said suggestions from the public were welcome on the subject.
Commissioners to address beach smoking

Public input is likely to be freely forthcoming on another controversial issue: smoking on the beach.

Already, Bethany Beach has begun to consider the issue, with the town’s Charter and Ordinance Review Committee having briefly discussed a possible ban last month and plans for the town council at their July 19 meeting to give or withhold its approval of additional research that could lead to enactment of a smoking ban there.

Property owner Steven Bunoski raised the issue of a beach smoking ban with the South Bethany council on July 13, referencing issues with the resulting trash and conflicts between smokers and other beachgoers that can result from allowing smoking on the beach.

“It’s come up from time to time in the past,” Jayne said of the issue of a possible beach smoking ban.

“It’s an enforcement issue,” Jayne noted of the difficulty of passing such a ban and why the town has never formally tackled it before, despite the issue being raised over the years. “The lifeguards have enough to do. And I can’t see our police officers walking the beach,” he added.

Bunoski countered that he’d heard that, when asked, Rehoboth Beach lifeguards had said they’d be eager to help enforce such a ban.

Recognizing a growing concern about the issue among the public, Jayne offered to send it on to the town’s Planning Commission this time out, where it joins townwide curbside recycling and a policy on impervious surfaces for the commissioners’ study and recommendations.

“It’s high time we looked into it,” Jayne said.

Recycling, impervious surface issues looked at

Bunoski also took issue with the delay on a town recycling policy, noting that individual property owners and residents have been able to sign up for curbside recycling from the Delaware Solid Waste Authority for the better part of a year now.

“You need to get the word out,” he said of the program. “It would be a couple thousand (dollars) for the summer for the entire town,” he emphasized of the townwide option that was offered to area municipalities shortly after the individual program was started. “I’d just like you to take the bull by the horns.”

Jayne noted that the Planning Commission was examining the issue in order to develop a policy that would suit the town and its part-time/summertime-focused population, with their unique needs.

Councilman John Fields, who serves as a liaison with the commission, said that in the wake of a mandatory curbside recycling bill introduced in the General Assembly this past session, the commissioners were aiming to come up with a recycling plan that would suit South Bethany well enough to have it in place before curbside recycling would be required.

“If we get it in place ahead of any legislation, it will be more likely that we will be able to keep what works best for South Bethany,” Fields said, adding that the commissioners are expected to report to the town council on the issue in September.

In the meantime, town staff have added a reminder about the availability of individual curbside recycling to the town Web site, aiming to raise further awareness of the program.

On the subject of impervious surfaces, Fields said commissioners were looking at setting a maximum percentage or area of a property that could be covered by impervious surfaces. Guidelines developed in other communities are being studied as part of the process, he said.

Signs, water projects discussed

Also at the July 13 council meeting:

• Jayne stood by a new town policy of posting permitted construction hours in front of all properties, which was instituted after numerous complaints about early-morning and late-night construction activity. While the new policy earned praise from resident Tom Roach, resident Ed Nazarian questioned it, saying the town already has too many signs.

Jayne said Rehoboth Beach had done the same thing, with great success in dealing with the construction complaints. He said the signs were primarily aimed at informing residents of permitted hours so they would know they should report off-hours activity.

• Town Manager Melvin Cusick denied reports that Verizon had been in discussion with the town to bring fiber optic service to the area. He said town officials had been told that the installation path of the newer lines was still far to the north. However, representatives of the town property owners’ association said they had requested a meeting with Verizon on the subject in the near future.

• Councilwoman Bonnie Lambertson agreed to look into the striping of the intersection of York Road and Route 1, which Bunoski complained was incorrectly done again, leading drivers turning off Route 1 into the new island there and across a double yellow line.

• Treasurer John Rubinsohn reported that the town had paid out slightly more than it brought in during June, with $323,000 in expenses primarily going toward the payment of contracts for the construction of the new town hall and police station. The town brought in $196,000 in revenue, taking its cash funds down slightly, to $2.2 million.

• Council members provided updates on several local projects, with the dredging of the Assawoman Canal set to begin again in September and the town’s long-awaited beach reconstruction to start after Labor Day. Staging for the latter project may take place in the weeks leading up to that start date, though. And the town also expects to start its own canal dredging this fall, though plans now call for spoils to be evacuated in a pipe established for the project and not through the Assawoman Canal spoils system as previously considered.

• Councilman Jay Headman reported that the town’s contracted engineering assessment of the proposed tidal pump project had given the model for the project the green light. “The concept does work,” he said. The town will now aim to get funding to help with what is expected to be a multi-million-dollar project, through grants from state and federal authorities.

The committee supervising the project has already sent a letter to state Sen. George Howard Bunting about the project and is hoping its groundbreaking concept will be enough to sell it to officials who could fund it as a pilot project for possible use elsewhere in the area.

• An apparently resigned Lambertson acknowledged that windmills are no longer a non-issue for the town, as they had been some years ago when the notion of an offshore wind farm was first broached to local residents. Some $5 million has been approved by the U.S. Congress to study wind power on the East Coast, and 91 percent of Delawareans have been said to support the idea.

Lambertson noted lingering concerns about aspects of the proposed BlueWater Wind project – particularly whether it will be located about 11 miles off Rehoboth Beach or less than 7 miles off Bethany Beach – and about BlueWater’s expertise in the field. The state has cut the initial proposal for 200 turbines to just 100, she noted.

• Headman reported that the new Canal Water Quality Committee has been focusing on initial issues involved in improving the town’s canal water quality. “Our goal is to have the canals be fishable and swimable,” he said, noting work planned to educate the community and put in place strategies to help improve the water quality, including work with the Center for the Inland Bays and possible new ordinances, if needed.

Town officials plan to meet with Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control officials and some from the Delaware Department of Transportation, to address their concerns about runoff draining into the Anchorage Canal. “Our canals feed the Little Assawoman Bay,” Headman noted. “So it’s not just our canals. Whatever we can do will benefit the town and the bays.”