The Ocean View Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Town of South Bethany to offer Ocean View officers to help supplement police coverage in the neighboring town.
“At the request of South Bethany, we met with them. I think it’s pretty clear that their police department has disintegrated,” said Ocean View Mayor Walter Curran. “We won’t get into that reason; it’s none of our business. But they have come to us and they’re talking to another community or two about mutual assistance. Essentially, we say, ‘Yes, we’ll assist you.’”
Curran said the Ocean View police officers will only patrol South Bethany on their own time, when they are not working for Ocean View.
“At no cost to the Town of Ocean View,” said Curran. “They will still be Ocean View police officers under the control and command of our chief of police. We won’t use their equipment, we won’t use their vehicles, anything like that.”
The agreement stipulates that South Bethany will pay Ocean View its standard special-duty officer rate, which is the officer’s hourly rate times 1.5, plus $25 per hour for the use of the patrol car, and 10 percent of employee’s rate to cover administrative costs.
“This is so we can look our citizens in the eye and say, ‘This is costing you absolutely nothing,’” said Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin following the meeting. “My big thing is we want to make sure there’s no cost to the citizens of Ocean View and no impact on police services in Ocean View. I think we’ve got that covered with this agreement.”
Curran said the Ocean View officers will still be Ocean View officers when they’re patrolling South Bethany, and will be using their own equipment and returning to their own police station.
“We are simply trying to help out a neighboring community that’s going through a really difficult time right now. How long will this go on? There’s no way of telling, and we’re not going to speculate on that,” he added. “Under no circumstances will this cause a shortage of police coverage here in this town. And it won’t cost the Town of Ocean View a penny. I think this is the ultimate good-neighbor policy going forward.”
The agreement was approved on a 5-0 vote.
Following the meeting, McLaughlin said Ocean View had been contacted about three weeks ago by the Town of South Bethany with a request for coverage. He said Fenwick Island and Bethany Beach police and Delaware State Police Troop 4 were also contacted, but he said he could not speak to where those agencies were on offering additional coverage.
He emphasized, however, that any emergency calls from South Bethany will always be covered.
“Emergency calls are covered. We’re handling them anyway,” said McLaughlin. “They haven’t always had 24-hour protection over the last few years. If somebody calls 911 in the middle of the night they could have a Bethany cop coming, a Fenwick cop coming, an Ocean View cop coming, and a state trooper coming. Emergency calls are good. It’s the non-emergency stuff where there might be a slight delay, but that’s going to be covered.”
Council members discuss comp plan update
The Town of Ocean View is also seeking input from residents on its Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) update, and will host a workshop on Saturday, April 13, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in John West Park, near town hall. To encourage participation, the workshop will feature raffles, prizes and refreshments.
The Town is required by the State of Delaware to review and update their plan every 10 years.
Ken Cimino, director of planning, zoning and land use for the Town, said there will be four display stations set up, with the intent to engage residents.
“We’re looking for constituents’ feedback on how they see the town, what’s important to them and things they would like to see. These comments will be captured and incorporated and help us determine a path forward with what the town’s going to look like moving into 2030.”
Cimino said the Town has already received initial comments back from the Office of State Planning & Coordination, which included comments from the Delaware Department of Transportation, Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control, Division of Parks & Recreation, the State Historic Preservation Office, Delaware Housing Authority and Department of Agriculture.
“We strongly suggest that citizens come out and see what this plan is about,” said Curran. “Most people don’t care, and that’s sad, because it’s the future of what this town will be… This is your chance to speak up, and you’ll see the photos in front of you, you’ll see what ideas are. I strongly suggest if you want to have any say whatsoever in the future of the town, take the time and look at what we’re trying to do.”
Cimino said he, along with Town Manager Carol Houck and the planning staff, are reviewing the 2010 CLUP with the idea of “building off of some of the things that didn’t seem to get accomplished.”
“Come out, hear our ideas, see what sort of things we’re passionate about and want to bring to town. We need the comments of the folks who live here to see whether or not this is the direction the townsfolk want to go. We’re hoping to see everyone Saturday between 8 and 3.”
Resident Bill Butler asked what the Town is trying to accomplish with the CLUP plan.
“It’s really a roadmap to the future,” said Cimino.
“I think it’s a great idea what you’re doing Saturday, being able to open up to the community,” said resident Doug Purcell. “If we can’t make it Saturday, is there an opportunity to see that again?”
Cimino said a questionnaire will be added to the Town’s website, and citizens can always stop by the Town’s planning and zoning office to discuss it.
Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader said the CLUP will need to be adopted as an ordinance.
“There will also be a final draft that will be reviewed by everybody. It will go to the planning commission for a public hearing, it will come back up here for a couple readings. It will then go off to the Office of State Planning Coordination for what’s called PLUS review. Then it goes to the governor’s Land Use Planning Council for review.
“There are a lot of stops along the way where you’ll have the opportunity to participate in the drafting of the plan. There are 10 elements that go into it… You can go online and get a copy of the existing land-use plan and see what those elements are and what they’re made up of.”
The council on Tuesday also unanimously approved its 2020-fiscal-year operating budget, removing a budget item for a new artificial Christmas tree.
“We had quite a discussion at the last meeting, talking about getting a Christmas tree,” said Curran. “Typically, when we have our Christmas event here, we use the old pine, and I use the old selectively… We thought it would be a good idea to get a new tree and put it in a different spot; however, I’ve heard a lot of comments that they felt the cost was exorbitant because it was $21,500.”
Curran said the tree was to be artificial, with built-in lights, and would be stored and maintained by the same company that currently maintains the Town’s other Christmas lights and decorations.
“I don’t want to sound like bah-humbug, but given all we’ve gone through this year, given that we’ve fixed the tax fiasco we went through last year — this seemed like a fairly high-priced item…
“Quite frankly, to me, this is sort of a political thing, to say it is ridiculous to put $21,000 on the budget after what we’ve been through.”
“I think it is a lot of money to spend,” said Councilman Tom Maly, adding that the Town should maybe hold off until the next year’s budget to purchase the new tree.
The council agreed and approved the Town’s capital budget for its 2020 fiscal year, without the tree, as well as its 2020-2024 fiscal-years capital budget, with a 5-0 vote.
Despite the decision to not purchase a new tree, council and staff were confident that this year’s Christmas event in the park would be a great success. John West Park, according to officials, will still be a festive holiday venue, decked out with lights and decorations.
The council also unanimously approved on Tuesday an ordinance that would amend the town code to establish an occupancy limit in rental properties. The Town will now require rental properties to provide an off-street parking space per bedroom within a rental unit. The effective date will be Jan. 1, 2020, due to the fact that permits and licenses are already out for 2019.
While the Town cannot enforce anything on private roads, officials said the onus will be on the owner of a property who is seeking a rental license to prove they have adequate parking during their application process. If they cannot, they will not receive a rental license.
By Maria Counts