Bethany considers commercial ordinances

Members of Bethany Beach’s Charter and Ordinance Review Committee (CORC) on Jan. 18 continued discussion of potential changes to the town’s ordinances regarding commercial activity in the town.

With its previous makeup, the committee had already decided to call a halt to an existing exemption that permitted vehicle-based sales of produce — a long-existing tradition that many in the town still remember with fondness, recalling the ringing of bells as farmers brought fresh melons, tomatoes and corn to the doorsteps of vacationers.

Under its latest draft, the committee has also cemented the town’s control over other commerce based outside traditional stores and commercial properties inside its limits.

Such activity would be formally prohibited in town-controlled areas such as medians, streets, street ends, sidewalks, on the beach, boardwalk and other town-owned property, generally contained in the new Municipal, Open Space, Recreation and Education (MORE) zoning district.

Notable during the Jan. 18 discussion was an impending presentation by the Delaware Department of Agriculture, set for Jan. 19’s council meeting, proposing a farmers’ market within the town as part of an expansion of such markets under the department’s aegis.

CORC members said they believed a farmers’ market could exist in the town, with a permit granted for it — or other such commercial enterprises that might be suggested for town property — or a traditional business license for private property.

It was noted that while technically illegal commercial activity — such as food and drink vending from carts and wagons — has become increasingly common during the town’s Fourth of July celebration, spots such as Centennial Park (at the end of the Loop Canal) could possibly become legal and suitable locations for such temporary commercial ventures with a permit from the town.

Under the umbrella of the town’s commercial code, CORC members also cemented their previous recommendation that owners of vending machines be required to secure those machines in place. That would include both soda vending machines and other similar mechanisms, as well as boxes used to distribute newspapers and other written materials.

A central kiosk for newspaper distribution under a more decorative setting is still a potential part of the town’s Streetscape redesign for Garfield Parkway, but committee members said that until that happens, newspaper boxes should particularly be a safety concern.

CORC Chairman and Council Member Tony McClenny noted that some of the newspaper boxes outside the downtown post office had been blown out of place by storm winds this past fall, raising the safety concerns to new heights. The committee members were not specific as to how the boxes should be secured, though, with weight and chains being two possibilities.

The issue of home-based businesses also came up during the discussion Jan. 18, but committee members noted that such ordinances are actually part of the town’s planning and zoning code, making the topic one the Planning Commission will eventually deal with during its page-by-page review of Chapter 245 of the town code.

Building Inspector John Eckrich said just a few such businesses were licensed in the town, leading to speculation that others may exist without a license.

CORC members now plan to send their draft of recommended changes to the town’s commercial code to the town council for future consideration and possible action.