A longtime member of Fenwick Island’s Board of Adjustment confronted the town council at a recent meeting, about the manner in which he and other board members were replaced following a council election in August that resulted in four of five council positions changing hands.
Tim Collins, who said he and his wife, Gretchen, have been full-time residents in Fenwick for 35 years, told the council he had understood that applications would be taken for vacancies on the Board of Adjustment.
“The key word here is ‘vacancies,’” Collins said.
Collins said he did not think his seat was included in those “vacancies” since his term was not due to expire this year. He said he was not contacted about re-applying for the board.
“I didn’t know there had been new applications accepted,” Collins said.
“I still don’t understand how it happened,” Collins said of his removal from the board, adding that “the reason I was finally given” was that a violation of the town code had been discovered by the new council members, involving the installation and confirmation of Board of Adjustment members.
“You threw them in the garbage,” Collins said of the sitting Board of Adjustment members.
Town Council Secretary Natalie Magdeburger told Collins that “there was no animosity here” and said that, counter to Collins’ claims, “I did respond to your email,” and that he had been sent an application for the board.
“Those are state boards,” Magdeburger said. “We have to follow state law when we are appointing them and confirming them.
“My emails did thank you for your service,” she said, adding that the council also felt that, with the new council taking office, there were “opportunities for others to serve.”
“I think we’re doing the right thing, and we’re doing it for the right reasons,” Magdeburger said.
Mayor Vicki Carmean, who is the only current council member who was on the council before the recent election, said that she was not aware that there was an issue with the way the former council had handled confirmation of the board until Pat Schuchman, who had been the Town’s building official before being promoted to town manager at the Oct. 24 meeting, “handed me the code.”
Collins claimed that the council “had to go back through five years of minutes” from town council meetings to find a way to replace the former Board of Adjustment members with those of their own choosing.
“There’s a lot of talk about transparency” among the new council members, Collins said, but he again took issue with the replacement of four board members when only two members’ terms were expiring. “It’s a charade,” he said.
In an email from Magdeburger provided to the Coastal Point by Collins, Magdeburger told Collins that “as to the Board of Adjustments appointments, we are aware of the Delaware and town code requirements pertaining to those appointments. While the Mayor proposes an appointment to the Board of Adjustment, confirmation by majority vote of Town Council is a mandatory statutory requirement. In 2020, unfortunately, Town Council failed to vote on any committee or board appointments. Therefore, no proposed appointment to any committee or board was confirmed in 2020.
“In order to comply with the Delaware code and correct this deficiency, Mayor Carmean will need to appoint and Town Council will need to confirm, by majority vote, the board appointments that were available in 2020 as well as 2021,” Magdeburger said in an email to Collins dated Oct. 11.