South Bethany recently filled its open council seats with three candidates who pledged to represent their individual neighborhoods. Even if the candidates don’t take their pledges very seriously, their most demanding neighbors likely will.
The end result could be ongoing confrontations as organized neighborhood groups compete for the Town’s resources or demand special entitlements. Were this to happen, the Town’s well-being would become secondary within the council.
South Bethany’s one square mile holds three geographically diverse neighborhoods. This diversity has always made the town vulnerable to divisiveness. Until recently, our council seems to understand this problem.
The ocean-side neighborhood is the most important to South Bethany. It is the gateway to the beach and provides roadside car and bike parking for beachgoers.
Most of the homes are rentals. The revenue generated makes this neighborhood the town’s breadbasket.
The canal neighborhood has most of the town’s legal residents. These residents account for the bulk of the volunteers who provide tens of thousands of dollars in free labor for the whole town.
The third neighborhood is known as “Cat Hill.” Cat Hill owners are mainly weekenders. Its special value is that it has the only western entrance into the town for owners returning from shopping.
Cat Hill owners don’t like the traffic coming through the western entrance. They got the town council to barricade the entrance during peak shopping hours all summer long.
The Cat Hill barricade may be the start of a trend. This potential trend has become more likely now that some council members have pledged to represent special interests.
The process that produced the barricade is worth examining because we could start seeing more of it. Here are key points:
• The council never even asked how the barricade would affect the town it is supposed to represent.
• The council never challenged claims made by barricade advocates. Questions from owners eventually revealed that the road is safe, speeding isn’t an issue, and DelDOT said it never recommended the barricade.
• The council expressed no concern that it has been misled by the barricade advocate’s claims.
• The council ignored requests to explain the barricade.
• The council paid for an opinion survey of Cat Hill owners but refused to survey all affected owners.
• The council ignored a public request to justify why a barricade is needed mid-week when many in Cat Hill are gone and residents need to shop. Perhaps they were influenced by the Cat Hill spokesman who wrote he needs the barricade in case he and his neighbors show up mid-week.
People who want an opaque government with uncertain loyalties should be encouraged. People who want a government that works for the good of the town may be in for a bad time.
Now might be a good time for South Bethany owners to start demanding that its council at least take a stab at providing the transparency it promises on the Town’s website. Transparency is a proven vaccine against shenanigans.