South Bethany finalizing comp plan

The South Bethany Planning Commission made quick work of two partitioning requests at their April 24 meeting, before plunging into comments from state agencies on the town’s draft comprehensive development plan (CDP).

The Bovarini family received unanimous recommendations from Commissioners Tom Baker, John Speer and Ronald Wuslich to partition their late father’s double lot on West 10th Street into two separate lots, one each for brother and sister.

Likewise, the family of John C. Hough received unanimous approval for a recommendation to partition his West 11th Street lot into two separate lots. Both requests will still have to be approved by the town council, but the commission’s approval moves them on to that step.

With Commissioner Sue Allenspach, outgoing Councilman Bob Cestone (not seeking re-election May 27) and former Councilman Lloyd Hughes present to provide input, the commission tackled the 11-page document of comments on the town’s CDP from various state agencies.

Wuslich noted that a call to the Office of State Planning Coordination had netted the assurance that were the town to address the issues contained in the first few pages of the agency commentary, the CDP could pass its review and finally be adopted, more than a year after the town’s initial CDP development process began, in May 2005. The draft plan went to the OSPC Dec. 28, 2005, with the PLUS review Jan. 17, 2006.

While Town Manager Mel Cusick noted that many of the comments seemed to be “boilerplate” elements that were suggested to be included in most CDPs for the state, commissioners were in agreement that most didn’t seem to apply to the small, developed coastal town. The top issues still needing to be addressed were:

• How the town will handle pollution issues — namely the total maximum daily load (TMDL)-reduction requirements that are being pushed by the state.

The draft TMDL regulations suggest a 40 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorous emissions, particularly noting applicability to new development. But the town has no annexation plans and few unbuilt lots left to be built upon.

Commissioners, backed up by Center for the Inland Bays officer Hughes — who also participated in the process that developed the TMDL initiative — opined that the TMDL issue isn’t pertinent to the town, and they now plan to tell the state so.

In fact, they said, the town’s single non-point source of pollution is out of its control: runoff from Coastal Highway, from Sea Colony south, into the 50 grates and several cache basins on Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)-controlled easements and then into the town’s canals.

• Documentation of the town’s little-known cemetery. Under Historical and Cultural Affairs, the state requested the town create a narrative documenting the history of the small cemetery that is on private lands off Black Gum, owned by Goody Taylor.

Speer noted that the existence of the cemetery is not well known. In fact, he said, it was once sold as a building lot, only to be recognized as a cemetery and kept in private hands as a result. Commissioner Joan DeSantis (absent from the meeting) was tasked to work on the narrative with consulting historians.

• Protection of water resources. The commentary notes that the water sources for Artesian Water (which supplies the town) are within the town limits. But Hughes disputed any potential impact of the town on the aquifer, stating that the Columbia Aquifer that resides under the town is not the source of the water.

It is instead supplied by an aquifer stretching from Route 113 and throughout the area, he said. The impact of the town on that source would be negligible, Hughes said, with only 25 percent of rainwater making it into the aquifer. He said inland towns were a much greater source of impact on such sources and would have to worry about the implications on their own water sources, whereas South Bethany did not.

• Restrictions on building in wetlands. The commentary recommends restricting lot lines to areas not within wetlands. But Town Manager Mel Cusick said the town couldn’t reasonably do so, because it would require changing existing lot lines and restricting development as a result.

Technically, the lot lines are within town control, but again noting the lack of unimproved lots in the town, Cusick said such restrictions usually fall within state and federal permitting processes rather than with the town.

• Stormwater management. The commissioners noted that all town drainage structures fall within 100 feet of wetlands – a recommended area of prohibition under the plan, but also a done deal that can’t be changed at this point in the town’s development. They said the recommended “green technologies” for stormwater management would be implemented as possible, though.

The PLUS commentary also asks for additional details in a number of areas, such as provision of public utilities and water supply. Other sections were largely deemed not applicable to the town, with minor commentary falling in line with existing town practices.

In the case of the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the recommended “memorandum of understanding” falls in line with the town’s existing practice of receiving fire marshal approval for all residential structures. Agricultural concerns are largely nonexistent, of course, but the town is in agreement with mandates for native landscapes as buffers, tree mitigation and tree placement designed to reduce heating and cooling costs for structures.

And the town is already complying with requirements to document the expansion of any gas or propane service, Cusick said.

Though only a few major issues needed to be addressed in the revised plan, Council Member John Fields had said the town would attempt to address most, if not all, of the comments from the PLUS review.

While many of those comments were deemed by the Planning Commission to be not applicable to the town, the commissioners planned to document the reasons for that determination, to let state planning officials know their comments were taken into account in what they hope will be the final revision of the document before it is certified.