Editor:

My name is Janice Bortner and I am running for Fenwick Island Town Council. Twenty-six years ago, we purchased a home in Fenwick Island because we loved its unique family-friendly community and quiet charm, as well as the undisturbed wetlands of Fenwick Island State Park.

Over the years, children became adults, grandchildren arrived, and we rebuilt the old beach house to accommodate our growing family. I am running for Fenwick Island Town Council to ensure that the Town remains the Quiet Resort we treasure for future generations.

Over the years, residents of Fenwick Island have managed to defend our uniquely quiet town by supporting purposeful regulations — notably restrictions on parking, building density, new development and noise.

However, regulations are only useful if elected individuals choose to enforce them.

Fenwick Island is at a critical junction in its history. The Town faces pressure within its limits from current proposals to increase commercial density and building heights, and outside its limits from rapid commercial and residential development along the Route 54 corridor, which has resulted in ever-increasing non-resident beach traffic and parking pressure.

Our surrounding coastal and marine environment have similarly come under development pressure recently from DNREC’s proposal to allow a large power company to build a multi-acre industrial interconnection facility on Fenwick Island State Park’s undisturbed wetlands. In exchange for this industrial facility, DNREC was to receive funds earmarked for a multi-level impermeable parking structure and greenfield development of other density-accommodating features at the park.

Several current members of town council were indifferent, if not complicit, in DNREC’s rollout strategy designed to limit public information and input to an initial 30-day comment period.

For example, DNREC’s proposal was first publicized on Oct. 1, 2019, yet FOIA records confirm that, on Aug. 20, 2019, Fenwick “Mayor” Gene Langham and his wife, Council Member Richard Mais and Town Manager Terry Tieman met with DNREC, the power company and various members of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce to discuss the proposal and agreed, under no legal obligation, to keep the proposal in confidence from town residents until the public announcement, which materially disadvantaged town residents, given the extremely abbreviated comment period.

Conversely, in response to the proposal, I helped organize a grassroots campaign to create public awareness of the project’s detrimental environmental impact by contacting representatives, sending letters, posting yard signs and facilitating concerned-resident outreach to decision-makers. As the voices of opposition became louder, the power company abandoned its proposal, citing environmental concerns. However, had it not been for the efforts of concerned town residents, the outcome would certainly have been different.

Now, more than ever, the Town needs proactive elected leaders to come to her defense — leaders solely accountable to her and her residents. The Fenwick we know and love will cease to exist if elected officials continue to:

  • selectively enforce (or ignore) protective ordinances;
  • outsource development and budgetary decisions to committees comprised of the same handpicked unelected individuals;
  • purposely reduce transparency by limiting resident insight into town council decision-making and participation in town council meetings; and
  • quashing resident opinion through bully tactics.

While some change is inevitable, I absolutely believe we can maintain Fenwick Island’s unique characteristics through cooperation, transparency, accountability and governance designed to aggressively safeguard our community and its core values.

Therefore, I pledge to:

• Enforce ordinances that protect our quiet family-oriented town.

• Respect resident opinion and facilitate governmental transparency.

• Defend our town from those who try to force undesirable change.

• Act to solve infrastructure issues and bayside flooding problems.

For more information, please go to www.votetoprotectfenwick.com.

Janice Bortner

Fenwick Island