Fenwick raises notion of historical committee

The meeting was on the subject of beautification, but Fenwick Island Town Council Member Chris Clark dropped in an idea that has a larger potential impact on the town than any new landscaping plans or restroom renovations.

Spurred by comments about visual clutter, at the Nov. 7 meeting of the town’s Beautification Committee, Clark suggested the time might be ripe to take beautification a step further and follow the examples of neighboring Bethany Beach, Rehoboth Beach and Lewes by forming a historical committee that would lead the way on the issue of preservation.

His fellow committee members weren’t prepared for the sudden shift in discussion from an idea to purchase decorative banners for the town’s utility poles, but they appeared open to the general idea, seeing as it would help preserve the town’s existing character.

Clark said he believed the entire town could be declared part of a historical district, with the town’s own ordinances used to select what needed to be preserved. “Whatever we put together,” he said of what might be covered by preservation ordinances.

That could mean preservation of what such a committee might deem historical homes, such as the small, one-story cottages that are already an endangered species in the town. And incentives, rather than flat requirements might be the mechanism by which to do so, Clark said.

The councilman was adamant on one point, however — sooner or later, the town will need to take steps in that direction.

“This has to be done at some point in time,” he said. We don’t have to do it now, but it will be harder to do in the future, the longer we wait.”

Clark further suggested that the town might need to ramp up its Star Business Awards — a business beautification reward that has been given out several times a year in the last couple years. He proposed an annual winner be granted some kind of larger reward, such as publicity in the town’s newsletter, in order to encourage larger efforts.

Along the preservation lines, he noted with sadness the expected closure of the restaurant Mazat, which had done some appreciated renovations to the former Libby’s location that was a sore spot with the town. Mazat’s owners were to receive the Star Business Award at a November town council meeting, in fact.

But legal action on that property owner has led to a likely sale of the property to settle the legal matters, and it seems most likely the structure will be torn down and replaced with either residential dwellings or a combination of residential and commercial use, Clark said. Ironically, the business is due to be closed before the award was even to be presented.

Clark said he hoped preservation efforts could particularly be focused on preserving the town’s traditional cottage look. He did, however, note that he had too much on his plate to spearhead such an effort personally and said he hoped someone else in the town would be willing to put a lot of energy into what would undoubtedly need to be a new committee.

Returning to the subject of the banners, committee members brainstormed on what might be among the designs for a series of three, four or more seasonally appropriate banners, akin to those displayed in Bethany Beach on the town’s utility poles.

Committee Chairwoman and Council Member Vicki Carmean said she wanted something colorful and eye-catching, a la the banners at Clark’s business, iLand Art Gallery, located just outside Fenwick Island town limits. Committee members enthusiastically agreed with the idea.

They offered a myriad of themes that could be presented throughout the year, ranging from cranes and fall grasses to flip-flops, lifeguard stands, the sun, flowers, surfboards and beach umbrellas. The town’s holiday lights would be up on the poles during the holiday season, with a possible fourth banner taking their place in January.

Clark said the town’s Commercial Liaison Committee, which he chairs, remained interested in the banner project but would cede authority over it to the Beautification Committee, so long as they could get a peek at the final idea. Their emphasis for the project was to more clearly delineate the town and its business district from Ocean City and the unincorporated area, he noted.

Clark offered to use his experience from having his business’ banners made, and his wife, Jessica’s, skills as an artist to develop the themes into more concrete ideas for the banners.

Taking a page from the work of the Parks and Recreation Committee, Carmean noted that the committee had discovered some old beach signs during the course of work on the overall sign replacement project.

The signs, circa 1985 or 1990, were carved from wood and committee members said they not only represented a desirable effort to reuse and recycle the town’s possessions but just the kind of traditional reference to the town’s coastal past that would suit the project perfectly.

Carmean said she would look into having the signs refurbished, with reflective paint, and into having additional signs made to match the eight or nine that had been discovered.

Carmean also noted that efforts were under way to get the town’s businesses involved with the committee’s project to add trash cans and “smokers’ outposts” to help keep the town beautiful. She said some businesses had expressed interest in going in on the project if the town were to help with the costs of the containers.

At roughly $80 each, the town could contribute $10 or $20 to the first 10 purchased, she said, with the remainder of the costs being picked up by the businesses that chipped in on the project.

Along with a project to replace worn and stained carpet in the town’s police department, Carmean discussed progress on the efforts to update the men’s restroom at the town hall. The project is expected to be similar to the reworked ladies’ room, but with more masculine colors.

The final decisions on fittings and colors are due to be made in the near future, with the work expected to be done over the winter.

Committee members also agreed to meet up Nov. 8 to work on updating plantings in the town’s large planters, after dead trees were replaced by a landscaping company the previous week.

The next meeting for the group was set for Dec. 13, at 9 a.m., with expectations that a color scheme for the restroom might be available for perusal.