Articles on this Page
- 02/05/18--07:38: _Mardi Gras benefit ...
- 02/08/18--13:57: _With love of educat...
- 02/08/18--15:58: _Mardi Gras Benefit ...
- 02/08/18--16:03: _New minister joins ...
- 02/08/18--16:09: _Millville cancels 2...
- 02/08/18--16:11: _Roses are red; porc...
- 02/08/18--16:55: _Fenwick juggling co...
- 02/08/18--16:57: _Insurance commissio...
- 02/08/18--17:02: _County continues wo...
- 02/08/18--17:05: _ABC hearing the nex...
- 02/15/18--11:33: _Curran taking reade...
- 02/15/18--11:49: _Tower 3 a beacon in...
- 02/15/18--12:14: _DHSS reports 1,200 ...
- 02/15/18--12:43: _Once again, coastal...
- 02/15/18--12:49: _Selbyville incumben...
- 02/15/18--13:06: _Valor Awards recogn...
- 02/15/18--13:43: _New commercial cent...
- 02/15/18--13:53: _Bethany Ropewalk re...
- 02/22/18--11:25: _Optimists arrive in...
- 02/22/18--11:42: _Optimists award 201...
- 02/05/18--07:38: Mardi Gras benefit returning to Selbyville library
- 02/08/18--13:57: With love of education, Millville man earns athletic honors
- 02/08/18--15:58: Mardi Gras Benefit returns to Selbyville library
- 02/08/18--16:03: New minister joins Ocean View Church of Christ
- 02/08/18--16:09: Millville cancels 2018 election
- 02/08/18--16:11: Roses are red; porches are, too
- 02/08/18--16:55: Fenwick juggling commercial parking rules again
- 02/08/18--16:57: Insurance commissioner opens office in Georgetown
- 02/08/18--17:02: County continues work to update zoning code
- 02/08/18--17:05: ABC hearing the next step for Ropewalk in Bethany
- 02/15/18--11:33: Curran taking readers to Africa in new book
- 02/15/18--11:49: Tower 3 a beacon in state park’s economic contributions
- 02/15/18--12:14: DHSS reports 1,200 new flu cases in a week, death toll rises to 11
- 02/15/18--12:43: Once again, coastal towns oppose drilling, seismic testing
- 02/15/18--12:49: Selbyville incumbents retain seats with no new challengers
- 02/15/18--13:06: Valor Awards recognize the work of local first-responders
- 02/15/18--13:43: New commercial center under construction in Ocean View
- 02/15/18--13:53: Bethany Ropewalk receives liquor license
- 02/22/18--11:25: Optimists arrive in Sussex County, meet in Georgetown
- 02/22/18--11:42: Optimists award 2018 essay prizes
Break out the beads and feathers! Mardi Gras night will return to the Selbyville Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 10, from 6 to 9 p.m.
The fundraiser benefits the Friends of the Selbyville Public Library.
“It’s a time for great food. We’ve got great music. … We’ll have silent auctions. There’s a 50/50,” said Friends President David Nilsson. “It should just be a fun evening that people will enjoy, hanging out with the neighbors and raising money for a good cause.”
Sedona restaurant of Bethany Beach will cater the event.
“We’re going to have a great New Orleans-inspired buffet again. Shrimp jambalaya, chicken gumbo, red beans-and-rice and crawfish étouffée. … It’s always good stuff,” Nilsson said. “You can just eat it all night long.”
The ensemble Notes on the Beach will weave party music through the library, and guests can enjoy a cash bar.
A silent auction will include artwork, gift cards and the piece de résistance, a high school memories gag gift basket.
After the group reduced ticket prices from last year, ticket sales have been brisk. Tickets can be purchased for $25 each until Feb. 7 at the Selbyville Public Library circulation desk.
This is the Friends’ primary annual fundraiser.
“This past year, we gave $6,000 to the library in support of all their children’s and adult programs. They don’t get that level of funding from the County,” Nilsson said.
“They couldn’t produce the level of programs they have without our assistance. … If you’re interested in all of the programs at Selbyville Public Library, events like this continue to support them and produce them.”
All year long, kids can stay active with summer reading programs, Comic Book Club, craft projects and more. Adults can enjoy needlecraft events, immigration forums, gardening and the Cookbook Club.
“Come dressed to have a good time. If you have your own beads and masks, feel free to bring them. We’d love to see everybody out there and having a good time,” Nilsson said.
“It’s a time … in the dead of winter, when there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on. People may have cabin fever, and want to get out and do something fun.”
For Ron Belinko, a job in school athletics was the greatest career in the world.
“You have such an influence on young people. When you moved into administration, you transfer that influence on to the coaches, principals…” said Belinko, a retired coach, teacher and athletic administrator.
Years later, middle-aged adults still recognize him on the street, decades after he first coached them in Baltimore County, Md.
This winter, he was inducted to the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Hall of Fame.
Although he played organized sports in school, city kids played games all year ’round.
“We would just challenge the street next to us, and during baseball season, you were out playing baseball or stickball in the alley,” switching to football each autumn. “It was all done unorganized. Of course, we had some brawls with the other neighborhoods or other alleys,” he joked.
Growing up in a blue-collar area of Baltimore where their parents worked all the time, “School was sort of a haven for us, and you had some positive influences as coaches, so you gravitated and stayed after school. You usually played sports all year ’round.”
He modeled his coaching style off the role models who came before him. Besides coaching football, wrestling and lacrosse, Belinko taught middle- and high school PE before moving into athletic administration and becoming a Certified Master Athletic Administrator (CMAA).
Being the athletic director is a fulltime job. In Belinko’s day, he ordered the buses, lined the fields and locked the doors at night. Now, directors also manage the fields, maintenance and coaches, including the volunteers from outside the building who don’t necessarily have an educational philosophy.
“The role has become so complex. That’s really why the NIAAA established leadership courses” for athletic administrators, said Belinko, a longtime teacher and coordinator.
In fact, along with his induction ceremony at the 48th National Athletic Directors Conference, Belinko also taught yet another leadership course during his six days in Phoenix, Ariz.
His 46-year career included 19 years as athletic coordinator at Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), overseeing 50 secondary schools and more than 1,600 coaches.
Belinko proudly helped to start Allied Sports at BCPS in 1994, modeled after Special Olympics, giving students with physical or learning disabilities the same opportunities as their peers in soccer, bowling and softball.
“We made it more inclusive,” and the students celebrated with pep rallies, banquets and letters, just like traditional varsity teams.
“They were so proud of themselves, it was unreal,” Belinko said. “This is the only event when … the parents would come up to you with tears in their eyes and they say, ‘I want to thank you for this program,’” instead of complaining about a referee’s call.
Overall participation rates increased under his watch. And he ensured that every high school had an athletic trainer, a medical staffer who can also wrap ankles before games, and teach athletes about proper stretching, nutrition and more.
“These injuries pop up all the time. It’s very important for an athletic trainer to be there on the spot, diagnose an injury, and they have sole word on whether a youngster should participate” in a game, or go see a doctor.
Belinko has served on a variety of athletic committees (including as former president of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association), helping to write rules, run tournaments, improve training and increase participation.
The NIAAA Hall of Fame was created to honor retired athletic administrators who had exemplary careers in the field. The nomination process begins about two years before the actual induction — one year for evaluation and then another 10 months before induction.
He was honored to be recognized — one of six individuals who joined the 72 previous inductees.
“There’s so many emotions. You just say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this.’ When I was 14 years old, a freshman in high school — all these years later you’re recognized across the country for this honor — it’s really the highest achievement you can achieve” as an athletic administrator, Belinko said.
“You weren’t doing it for self-glory. You were doing it for education and young people, and it just snowballed,” Belinko said. “I had a lot of good mentors. One said, ‘You gotta serve before you can lead.’ … To be a good leader, you have to serve and get the respect. You were in the trenches with everyone else.”
Leadership isn’t about being an expert, he said. It’s about sharing your experience with others. As football coach, he found assistants who could complement his weak spots. Similarly, he hired athletic directors who could step up when he left. He also hired women as directors because 50 percent of the student population was female.
Belinko graduated from the University of Baltimore in 1966 and later earned a master’s degree at Morgan State University.
His other honors include Maryland State Wrestling Hall of Fame, Eastern Technical High School Athletic Hall of Fame, National Wrestling Hall of Fame and MSADA Hall of Fame, the NFHS Citation, NIAAA State Award of Merit and Frank Kovaleski Professional Development Award.
Retired from work with Baltimore County in 2011, he’s still teaching today, for the Delaware Association of Athletic Directors.
He moved to Millville fulltime in 2015 with his wife, Donna, also an educator. Belinko stays active, joking that he can’t be lazy while telling kids to exercise. He hits the golf course and weight room regularly, and introduced his neighborhood to pickleball (a modified version of tennis that is easier on the joints). He also loves watching sports at Indian River High School.
“Best entertainment in town,” he said.
Break out the beads and feathers! Mardi Gras night returns to Selbyville Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 10, from 6 to 9 p.m.
The fundraiser benefits the Friends of the Selbyville Public Library.
“It’s a time for great food. We’ve got great music. … We’ll have silent auctions. There’s a 50/50,” said Friends President David Nilsson. “It should just be a fun evening that people will enjoy, hanging out with the neighbors and raising money for a good cause.”
Sedona restaurant of Bethany Beach will cater the event.
“We’re going to have a great New Orleans-inspired buffet again. Shrimp jambalaya, chicken gumbo, red beans-and-rice and crawfish étouffée. … It’s always good stuff,” Nilsson said. “You can just eat it all night lon-g.”
The ensemble Notes on the Beach will weave party music through the library, and guests can enjoy a cash bar.
A silent auction will include artwork, gift cards and the piece de résistance, a high school memories gag gift basket.
After the group reduced ticket prices from last year, ticket sales have been brisk. Tickets can be purchased for $25 each until Feb. 7 at the Selbyville Public Library circulation desk.
This is the Friends’ main annual fundraiser.
“This past year, we gave $6,000 to the library in support of all their children’s and adult programs. They don’t get that level of funding from the County,” Nilsson said. “They couldn’t produce the level of programs they have without our assistance. … If you’re interested in all of the programs at Selbyville Public Library, events like this continue to support them and produce them.”
All year long, kids can stay active with summer reading programs, Comic Book Club, craft projects and more. Adults can enjoy needlecraft events, immigration forums, gardening and the Cookbook Club.
“Come dressed to have a good time. If you have your own beads and masks, feel free to bring them. We’d love to see everybody out there and having a good time,” Nilsson said. “It’s a time … in the dead of winter, when there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on. People may have cabin fever, and want to get out and do something fun.”
Ocean View Church of Christ recently welcomed a new minister to its halls.
“I want us to be a community-minded church. I believe the church is meant to help make the community a better place. We’re supposed to be salt and light in the community where we are, and I believe that means make it better,” said the Rev. Ethan Magee.
Magee and his wife, Stefanie, along with their three kids — ages 9, 11 and 13 — moved to the area in November after serving at a church in Columbus, Ohio, for six years. Prior to that, Magee served at a church nearby, in Lewes, for 12 years.
“I went to Cincinnati Christian University,” said Magee, an Ohio native. “We love the area, the beach, the beautiful people that are incredibly welcoming and friendly. It feels like home.”
Serving the church was something Magee said he knew he wanted to do at a young age.
“My family is strongly Christian. I grew up in the church all my life,” he said. “It’s really something I felt led to early on, even in childhood.
“My oldest brother, Mark, is in the ministry. He’s a few years older than me, and, looking up to him, watching the difference he was making in people’s lives… the joy in serving in ministry — that had a huge impact on me. His example and my mom’s prayers led me in that direction…
“And over the years, I heard whispers of God calling me that way.”
As he is new to the church, Magee said he has no immediate plans to alter or add new programs.
“Just trying to get feet on the ground and develop relationships, evaluate and see what the Lord wants from us, what he has in store. We will focus on being more community-minded in the church and do everything we can to share the love of Jesus with the world.”
Magee said that, currently, the church averages about 150 parishioners, but he would love to bring more people in.
“I think a healthy church, a healthy organization — anything that has life in it — will naturally grow. I definitely hope to be a part of instigating some growth. I hope the Lord will just use me to bring that about,” he said. “My vision is — I want it to be the Lord’s vision. I want God to move and us to do our best to get out of the way so he can do His work.”
A relationship with God and Jesus is essential, said Magee, and he hopes to help build one.
“We don’t have to do life alone. We can have Him walk with us. It’s one thing we want to communicate. It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship,” he said. “My passion, the reason I’m a preacher, the reason I’m a Christian, is because I believe everybody’s life would be better if Jesus was at the center of it. That’s the message we proclaim — the love of Jesus.”
Magee said he is excited to be at Ocean View Church of Christ and share the love of God with his congregation and the community.
“I’ve found this great church full of great people. It’s very loving, very welcoming. I want people to know in the community — we want to be the kind of church where it’s OK to not be OK, but we don’t want you to stay that way. We’re a group of people trying to do our best to know Jesus and do what he wants us to do.”
For more information about Ocean View Church of Christ, visit www.ccovde.org or call (302) 539-7468.
Two candidates registered for the two seats up for election in 2018, so the Millville Town Council election has been canceled.
With no opponents, incumbent Steve Maneri and challenger Ronald Belinko will be sworn in at the regular council meeting on March 13 at 7 p.m. Each seat carries a term of two years.
Both live in major housing developments in town — Belinko in Bishop’s Landing and Maneri in Millville By the Sea.
Council Member Valerie Faden did not register to run for a second term. Although Lisa Hudson had initially intended to run, she withdrew her name after the filing deadline. So, the March 3 election is no longer contested, and therefore no longer needed.
Town Manager Debbie Botchie estimated that Millville hasn’t had a contested election since 2009.
Stepping into her yard is like walking into a Valentine’s Day explosion: pink lights, silk flowers, red ribbons, pearls, garland, stuffed animals and hearts galore.
“I’ve found my niche in life,” she observed with a laugh, having decorated her Church Street porch for the past several holidays.
Being diagnosed with cancer three years ago was a “wakeup call” for Grimes, she said. She’s better now, but she and her husband, Bill, decided to travel the world while they still can.
They’ve seen the aurora borealis in Iceland, breathtaking vistas in Niagara Falls, wildlife in South Africa and glitzy thrills in Las Vegas.
Perhaps most inspirational was New Orleans, joyful even outside of Mardi Gras season. Grimes said she was inspired by the impromptu jazz parades that spilled from restaurants into the street, as well as the incredible decorations and costumes. When their son was married, his East Coast wedding was Mardi Gras-themed, and then, on the honeymoon, his wife wore her white gown into the New Orleans revelry.
Back in Selbyville, Grimes incorporated her daughter-in-law’s now street-worn wedding dress into a “corpse bride” Halloween decoration on her porch.
The thrill of decorating blossomed as Grimes added more each season. She turned toy gorillas into werewolves. Too heavy to move, a tall nutcracker is alternately dressed as the Easter bunny or summertime pirate. Daintily dressed in red and ribbons this month, a plaster piglet usually wears a coconut bra in summer.
“People are starting to come by and see the pig now,” said Grimes, who got the statuette from a neighbor.
Grimes loves thrift-shopping for fun used pieces for the entire house. Her original Mardi Gras theme carries into the living room, where it’s married with lush jungle décor, for an ornate, but cozy sitting area.
Laura and Bill Grimes are both from Howard County, Md., where she grew up with little parades being held along her childhood street on a regular basis. But settling in Bishopville, Md., they had few immediate neighbors or trick-or-treaters and, therefore, no impetus to decorate the house.
But after downsizing to Selbyville about six years ago, “Now we have a sweet little house” along the parade route. Local children love taking photos by their house, especially at Halloween and Christmas, she said.
“At Halloween, I probably had a couple hundred kids. … I don’t mind if they want to come over and get pictures on the porch,” Grimes said.
Grimes is already a familiar face around town as Lollipop the Clown.
“I’m a children’s entertainer, and the kids are always asking where I live,” Grimes said. “Now I tell ’em, ‘That’s Lollipop’s house.’”
Parking is no easy feat in Fenwick Island during the summers. Any business able to succeed might run out of parking in its regular lot and could have to get creative.
But the Fenwick Island Town Council is trying to get a handle on things, and historically, they have not wanted cars migrating too far from the businesses their drivers are supposed to be patronizing.
So, the council has now proposed that parking should only be allowed on commercial lots that have permanent structures with working utilities and at least one bathroom available for employees, customers or clients during business hours.
The current zoning code says commercial parking spaces can be placed with a business in a garage, carport or on an empty area of that business lot. But it does not emphasize that commercial parking is only ever permitted when accompanying a business on the lot it’s intended to serve.
“For years, parking has only been allowed on lots with commercial structures on it,” said Bill Weistling, chair of the Charter & Ordinance Committee. But the code was so vague that the town solicitor recently suggested adding more detail to reflect the intent.
“It’s always been that way, because the Town didn’t want people just coming, buying commercial lots just to use as a parking lot. Of course, that was in the past, and the town is growing so fast. … You either proceed with what we have, or the council decides maybe we scrap this and allow parking on a commercial lot,” Weistling said.
The owners of Big Eye Jacks, formerly known as Ropewalk, said they feel requiring the business to have a structure on the same lot is a waste of space. They recently purchased the property at 707 Coastal Highway with the idea that it would serve as overflow parking for their business at 700 Coastal Highway. It seems wasteful to install a tiny building there just to install a bathroom, they said.
Big Eye Jacks’ owners have been “jumping through hoops” to get parking off the street and into a lot, said co-owner Mark McFaul. When that didn’t work, they bought the second lot across the street, just for parking.
But while the proposal could cause more headaches for Big Eye Jacks, there’s time for the council to change its mind on the amendment to Chapter 160-2B (Zoning, Commercial, Parking) of the town code. There will be a second reading and a public hearing held at a future council meeting.
In other Fenwick Island news from the Jan. 26 council meeting:
• The council reiterated their opposition to proposed seismic testing and oil/gas drilling off the Atlantic coast, which was recently re-opened as a possibility by the Trump Administration after it had been ruled out, at least for a number of years, by the Obama Administration. The council also emphasized their need for canal dredging, with state, county and federal financial support.
• After essentially no action in that department for two years, the council unanimously voted to extend the Town’s moratorium on new hotel/motel uses for another two years, until Feb. 26, 2020.
“Two years ago, we passed a moratorium on any new hotels in town. The reason we did that was we wanted to see the effect of a proposed new hotel on the town,” Mayor Gene Langan said.
“I think it’s good to extend it and move forward with caution,” Councilwoman Vicki Carmean said.
• The council approved the first reading of a town charter change. Under voting requirements, the change would add the definition of “bona fide resident,” including which documents are accepted as proof.
• The Town staff and council honored Terry Tieman for her one-year anniversary as town manager.
“We’re happy to have you. We hope to have you for many, many more years,” said Building Official Pat Schuchman.
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I continue to feel that way,” Tieman said of her decision to work in Fenwick. “The council’s been wonderful to work with, you have great employees, we have a great team.”
• The town council and public thanked the Public Works Department for rapidly clearing roads after the Jan. 4 blizzard.
• Dean Gary is the Town’s new finance manager.
• A local family has been soliciting money in the Town’s name to purchase equipment for the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol. Although it seemed well-intentioned, Tieman said the Town hadn’t granted them permission yet to do that and is still waiting for the town solicitor’s feedback about the legality of it.
• Anyone can pay $50 for a memorial brick at the Fenwick Town Park. After a former lifeguard passed away this winter, Councilman Richard Mais had suggested the Town install a memorial brick at its own expense. But there are no guidelines for determining who is eligible for such an honor (years of service, age at death, etc.), so some council members said they were uncomfortable approving a Town-sponsored memorial, carte blanche. Instead, several people offered to purchase that particular memorial, and Town staff will draft guidelines for future Town-sponsored memorials.
• The Earth Day trash pick-up will be April 21, for which the council approved $500 for a reusable banner.
• Although the Fenwick Freeze was canceled, people can still purchase Freeze T-shirts by contacting Town Hall.
The Fenwick Island Town Council’s next regular meeting will be Friday, Feb. 23, at 3:30 p.m.
Those seeking help from the Delaware Department of Insurance no longer have to drive an hour away to speak with someone in person, as the department just opened its first offices in Sussex County.
“Almost two-thirds of walk-in visitors to our Kent County office are from Sussex County, and the majority of them are seniors,” said Commissioner Trinidad Navarro. “I’m excited that we are now able to help them closer to their home.”
Located on the Circle in Georgetown, the office will be open to the public Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“We saw the possibility of what a beautiful place this could be — I’m so proud to give folks who live right here in Sussex County,” he said.
Navarro said the new office came, in large part, thanks to House Bill 77, which addressed the issue of citizen accessibility to be able to speak with department personnel locally by opening a Department of Insurance office in Sussex County.
Navarro said the department has been working on many things, including workers’ compensation rates.
“Last year, workers’ compensation insurance went up 0 percent, which is great news for business owners… It was a big deal to have a 0-percent rate increase, but I said that wasn’t good enough,” he said.
“The rates now are between 3.7 percent in the voluntary market decrease and 5.7 in the involuntary market. What does this mean for business owners? We’re going to lower their rates for workers’ compensation, and that’s the first time that’s happened in many, many years.”
Many dignitaries were on-hand at the ribbon-cutting including Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, state House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, Georgetown Mayor Bill West and state Rep. Brian Pettyjohn.
“I want to thank the commissioner for doing this,” said Pettyjohn. “It’s great having these services in Georgetown.
The Sussex County office of the Department of Insurance is located at 28 the Circle, Suite 1, Georgetown. The office may be reached by calling (302) 259-7554.
As it works to update the county’s zoning code, the Sussex County Council this week reviewed some of the areas recommended for updates, with plans to hold public hearings on the amendments as they are introduced.
“This is an initiative that dates back to several conversations with councilman and several conversations here in our council meetings with the public relating to issues, inconsistences or problems that we’re facing with County code, mostly in the Planning & Zoning Department,” explained County Administrator Todd Lawson.
Lawson said the list presented on Tuesday was just “part” of what was being looked at by staff, with more amendments to come before the council at a future date.
“We wanted to start off with a small list we felt we could get through quickly,” he said, noting that the proposed amendments on that list were “not controversial.”
Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson said some of the changes are to allow for administrative variances in limited situations, to “streamline the process.”
“What we have run into is, going back decades, … there have been errors Sussex County made — whether it’s been incorrect zoning district or telling somebody it’s one setback when it’s another…
“They’re innocent errors. The problem is, when it comes in on a survey,” he said, is that County Planning & Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell “can’t approve it because it’s wrong to what our code says. The next issue is the people have to go through the Board of Adjustment,” he said, noting that could be a two- to three-month process.
Robertson said that, while such issues are not happening frequently, they have happened often enough to warrant a code change.
“If it’s a County error, the County should be able to fix it by granting an administrative variance,” he said.
The County also introduced ordinances to clarify the maximum building length and method of measurement; the requirement of interconnectivity for commercial uses; and allowing temporary handicapped access ramps to extend into setbacks.
Councilman George Cole asked who keeps track of the temporary ramps, saying he believes many are built then never removed.
“There is nothing in code that I’m aware of that requires the removal or follow-up,” said Cornwell. “They do not come through the planning office.”
Cole asked the council what they think “temporary” means and whether there should be some type of follow-up.
“Is there any expectation that County government should be following up on something that’s temporary?”
“I would remind council that we are talking about handicapped ramps for when an emergency need arises,” said Lawson. “I’m not sure we would want to be in the business of looking at the need of a handicapped ramp… They put it there for a reason. I don’t know how often we’d want to go back and check.”
Cole said that, right now, the County does nothing, and he isn’t sure it’s the “most appropriate” way to address a temporary structure.
“I would say no,” said Councilman Rob Arlett. “If someone has a real need… I’m not sure what would make it temporary… Maybe the word is what’s confusing.”
While the proposed ordinances have already been introduced, they will still go through a public hearing prior to being voted on by the council.
The Sussex County Council will not meet on Feb. 13. The council will resume its weekly meetings on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 10 a.m.
After expanding their restaurant from Baltimore to the Delmarva shore in 2013, the owners of Ropewalk have since set out to establish themselves in downtown Bethany Beach, constructing what will be a brand new 325-seat location one block off the beach at 107 Garfield Parkway, formerly the location of Fish Tales, which has moved across the street.
Part of the process of opening the restaurant is obtaining a liquor license, and that application will be up for a public hearing this week, after neighbors of the location filed protests against it with the state’s Office of the Alcoholic Beverage Commissioner.
Deputy Commissioner Robert Weist told the Coastal Point this week that any resident or property owner within a mile of the location can file a protest, and if 10 of them file protests, the OABC is required to hold a hearing on the application. As a result, a hearing has been set for Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 5 p.m. at the Sussex County Administration Building on The Circle in Georgetown.
“We would like to formally register our opposition to this restaurant’s application for a liquor license on the basis that we feel it would not be in the public interest to have a 325-seat restaurant with an open-air rooftop area located right in the middle of town,” Susan R. Fried, Joshua Fried, Larry Bullis, Judy Bullis, Joseph P. Smith, Claire Loftus, C. Michael Loftus, John Barbour, Kathy Sierra, Margaret Young, Bennie Allen and Steve Allen wrote in a letter-to-the-editor of the Coastal Point.
“The size of the establishment will bring added noise, congestion and traffic, further straining very limited parking availability,” they added. “We don’t want to be a smaller version of Ocean City, with all the noise, congestion and rowdiness that goes along with that distinction. This would certainly have a significant adverse impact on our quality of life.
“We are concerned that it just opens the door for more and larger bars and restaurants which would totally change the character of Bethany Beach and make it a less attractive destination for the many families who vacation here,” they said.
Bethany resident Karen Meyer wrote, “This establishment is so opposite to everything that Bethany is. Parking is difficult already during the summer season. I think there is a better location for a 325-seat restaurant, and that would be out on Route 1, where a larger property could accommodate the large number of people and their cars. I hope that this will continue to be a family community,” she added.
But Ropewalk co-owner Chris Reda said Ropewalk is “more of a family restaurant than any kind of bar or nightclub. We’ll have a playground outside so kids can play and parents can unwind,” he noted of the feature, which was also present at its former Fenwick Island location and in its Ocean City, Md., location.
Despite the protests from some neighbors, Reda said that the reactions he’s seen to the new location have generally been “overwhelmingly positive. I went to a Chamber event last week and met 150 local businesspeople, and they’ve been overwhelmingly positive.” He said there have been numerous signatures in support of the restaurant.
Reda said he knows all the area’s coastal towns have parking issues during the summer. The Fenwick location had to utilize a separate parking lot down the street to accommodate some of its customers.
“It’s the nature of the beach,” he said, adding that Ropewalk does “plan on participating with the trolley” and that the restaurant’s staff will be parking off-site.
“Noise is always an issue,” Reda acknowledged, but it’s an issue they also have experience in addressing. “We started 23 years ago in Federal Hill, where we had residential neighbors. We’ve always worked with them and been very good neighbors. In Ocean City, there are residences on both sides of us. We’re very conscious of that. Even in Fenwick, we never had any violations,” he emphasized of that location, which has since become Big Eye Jacks.
“I don’t think noise is going to be” an issue, he added of the Bethany location. “We’re not really that concerned. There are no outside speakers, so there will be no noise other than conversations.”
“We are good neighbors,” Reda reiterated. “I think most of the Bethany businesses have been very positive and greeted us with open arms. Time will tell,” he said, but they’ve had positive experiences with neighbors in their other locations.
“We’re not a chain,” he emphasized. “We’re just three owners. We take it as being part of the neighborhood, and our staff is a family — we’re not a big corporate entity, just local guys who got together.”
Town says Ropewalk met all its criteria
Town Manager Cliff Graviet said in November that the Town is aware of the opponents’ concerns, but he emphasized that the restaurant has already made it successfully through the Town’s permitting processes, which has three layers for new construction or renovation.
“First, is the business a permitted use in our Town Code? In this case, the proposed restaurant met the criteria set forth in the code for approval,” he said. “Just as Bethany Blues, Grotto’s, Mangos and the Blue Crab have done in the last decade or so, opening and operating in the C1 Zoning district in Town.
“Attempting to regulate what types of business can be opened or constructed in a commercially zoned area is often fraught with legal issues,” he noted. “Our Town Code lists a reasonable and defensible list of permitted businesses.
“In addition, setting criteria for what business we ‘like’ and those we don’t, besides being legally problematic, is extremely subjective. What adds more value to downtown Bethany Beach and thus the entire community, restaurants like the Blue Crab or Bethany Blues or the ubiquitous T-shirt/beach equipment store that proliferate in beach towns?” he asked.
The second layer of approval, Graviet explained, is whether the exterior design of the restaurant is compatible with the Town’s legislated design criteria.
“In this case, the Town’s Commercial Design Review Committee felt that the restaurant met those standards,” he said of the April 2017 review.
In fact, the building has been designed by architect Jeff Schoellkopf, who was hired by the Town as a consultant to develop the guidelines that are employed by the Design Review Committee and has designed several of the existing structures in downtown Bethany.
As with most of the buildings in the C1 zone, the first floor is being constructed to the property line on Garfield Parkway. It will have an open patio on the street, and the second floor will also have an open deck in the front, approximately 20 feet by 40 feet. The deck will have an open trellis roof with retractable awnings.
Graviet said some believe the DRC “erroneously permitted a restaurant with a ‘roof top’ dining area. This is simply not true,” he said.
“Similar to other restaurants in Town, like Mango’s and Grotto’s this restaurant has a second-floor dining deck that fronts Garfield Parkway. This deck opens to the street and is immediately adjacent to and across the street from other businesses and will not affect any residential area.
“This design feature is not prohibited in the C1 Zoning District in Bethany Beach,” he emphasized.
The DRC, chaired by Vice-Mayor Lew Killmer and also including John Hendrickson, Mike Boswell, Jim Weisgerber and Building Inspector Susan Frederick, voted unanimously in favor of the design approvals at their April 26, 2017, meeting.
Graviet noted that the third level of approval within the Town requires that the building’s construction complies with all applicable codes, and complies with both local and state guidelines in its construction as a restaurant.
“The Town Code stringently regulates restaurants with an eye to making sure the business cannot become more of a ‘bar’ than restaurant. In this case, the proposed building meets all those criteria, and the building’s construction has been permitted,” Graviet said.
He also noted that the amount of seating in a restaurant is computed according to the size of the restaurant.
“The developer of the restaurant has applied for a restaurant that will seat 325 people. By comparison, Bethany Blues seats 228, Mangos 244, Grottos at the boardwalk 249 and the Blue Crab 289. We have no criteria or regulation that allows the Town to regulate restaurant seating capacity at this time,” Graviet explained.
“When presented with a request for a business license and or building permit that comply with Town codes, the Town is left no choice but to issue those licenses or permits. Such is the case with the Ropewalk restaurant,” he concluded.
Commissioner has specific criteria to consider
With construction well under way, if slightly delayed by the winter weather, Ropewalk’s owners have sought a liquor license, which does require “certification from the appropriate governmental authorities that the location and building for which a license will be applied conforms with zoning ordinances allowing the sale of alcoholic liquor and with building ordinances.”
The Bethany approvals would meet those criteria, but the protests from the neighbors mean that the application still requires a public hearing.
“The public has the perception that the commissioner has broad, overreaching authority,” Weist acknowledged, emphasizing that the grounds upon which the commissioner could refuse to issue a license are spelled out in Title 4, Section 543, of the Delaware code.
“There are 14 things there,” he said. “A lot of people come in and talk about parking and things like that, and that is not under 543.”
“We require as part of the application that they have the zoning from the Town — they’re the authorities, they know better than we’d know — and that they have appropriate approvals, be it from the Town, County… They’re the local experts, and they understand traffic better than we would.
“The commissioner can’t really consider traffic, but people bring it up all the time,” Weist added.
He said noise concerns can be considered, and that the commissioner can and will look at proximity issues, but he said excessive noise is specifically defined in the state statute and in municipal ordinances as well.
“Especially if there’s a patio,” he said, “they would usually would have to advertise any variances that would be required, such as for outdoor speakers” — which, as Reda noted, are not in the plan at Ropewalk in Bethany.
Weist said that once the applicant has met the statutory burden, the burden then shifts to the protestors, and that objections have to meet the statutory criteria by which the commissioner can refuse to issue a license, including offering “substantial evidence” of a statutory reason for denial.
“If it’s just arbitrary, the [applicant] is just going to appeal the commissioner to the courts,” he said. “A lot of people who come to protest, they aren’t lawyers … and they bring up things we really can’t consider. But we let them speak.”
Reda said Ropewalk expects to have some supporters at Tuesday’s hearing as well. If the liquor license is granted and everything stays on track with construction, Ropewalk could be open in early to mid-June.
Reda said the menu will be similar to that of their Ocean City location, with “a couple special items” for the Bethany location. He said they plan to serve brunch every day in the summer, opening at 10 a.m. seven days a week. He said they also hope to keep their staff employed year-round by remaining open through all four seasons of the year.
While many know him as the mayor of Ocean View, Walter Curran has lived what might seem like 10 different lives. And, for those who love to read, he’s put those experiences in a series of books, with his latest story focusing on Africa.
“It’s great. I love writing, and I even enjoy the editing, because it’s a learning process for me,” he said.
Following that love, Curran recently published the second installment of his three-part “Young Mariners” series — “On to Africa.”
The series follows the life of William Connolly, a street kid from South Boston, as he embarks on his first job as a third-mate on the cargo ship the MorMacPride. The books are loosely based on adventures Curran and his shipmates had while they were in the Merchant Marines.
“I am very similar to William — there’s no question about it. I lived the life, but if I did everything in the books, I’d probably be dead by now,” he said. “But I have a good imagination. What was really helpful was that, when I sailed, even though I’ve been to these places and experienced some of these things, I sailed with some real characters. I remember all of their stories.”
Curran worked in the maritime field for more than 40 years. As a 1966 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, he was licensed as a third-mate and was also commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Curran spent four years at sea.
“On to Africa” picks up where “Young Mariner” — the first novel in the series — left off.
“William had signed off the ship in New York, convinced he was not going to go back — too much had happened. The captain was a crook, the chief mate was a crook,” he said. “This is a kid that came out of a rough part of South Boston, to get away from it all. Now he’s trying to avoid going back that way.”
But things happen that keep pulling him back, said Curran.
“He goes home to his mother and sister, who live together. In the process of being home, he calls the only girlfriend he had — ‘Hey, I’m home’ — and she basically says, ‘I’m sorry, but while you were away, I found somebody else. Don’t bother me anymore.’ Click.
“He makes up his mind to go back to the ship. The ship just so happened to be in Boston, so he rejoins the ship a week later, after being home for a week… except, this time, there are passengers on the ship.”
Now on a ship carrying passengers, William and his fellow shipmates have more to deal with than just cargo.
“There’s a Midwest couple, and he turns out to be the classic ‘ugly American.’ His wife, at first blush, makes you think she’s a jerk, but turns out she really isn’t — she’s just married to an idiot.
“There’s the captain’s wife, who is a ‘cougar’ in every sense. She attacks young men.
“There’s also a ‘great white hunter,’ and he adds a lot to the characters of the ship.
“Then there’s a mother and daughter heading back to South Africa, where they live. The daughter had been in college for four years… and he falls in love with the daughter. Therein lies the romance of the thing.”
As the ship heads to South Africa and hits different ports, things get a little dicey, with larceny, love and adventure all mixed together.
“The purpose of my whole story, through the trilogy is, I want people to see this is a kid who constantly fights to try and get on the high moral ground, but he’s on a slippery slope. He’s not wearing cleats, and it’s raining. But he still fighting, he’s not giving up.
“It’s a lot of evolution going on. In the end, they get back to New York… It’s got a really good ending, and I’ll leave it at that.”
Curran said he’s received many compliments from those who have read the series, noting that even women find the books appealing.
“I’m getting a lot of good comments from women who are reading it. It’s a ‘guy-book’ to me, but women are really liking it.”
Having traveled to the places portrayed in the book while he was serving in the Merchant Marines, Curran said the story is as much of a love story about being at sea as it is an adventure book.
“The romance, the concept of romance — being at sea — to me that was always the longing. That’s what I wanted to do — I wanted to go to sea. Of course, my father was in the Merchant Marines…
“I just loved the idea of traveling the world. Yes, it can be extremely lonely. Yes, it can be boring. But it’s also great fun.”
Curran said he has not been back to South Africa since his time there in the 1960s, but some aspects are still as vivid for him as ever.
“In the book, it talks about the apartheid system, and that part was real very real. That actually happened. I was so turned off by that,” he said, adding that apartheid is part of the book’s storyline.
Curran again worked with Mike McGowan to design the cover art for the novel to reflect the book’s contents.
“He does great work,” Curran noted.
“On to Africa,” as well as “Young Mariner,” are for sale at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach. “Young Mariner,” as well as Curran’s first book of poetry, “Slices of Life: Cerebral spasms of the soul — a collection of emotional moments memorialized in print,” are available at Bethany Beach Books. All of his books are also available for purchase on Amazon.com. He hopes to do book signings locally and regionally in the spring.
All profits made from “On to Africa” will go to support the Alumni Association Scholarship Foundation at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Curran said he first began writing after a trip to Ireland, where he discovered that he was indeed “really full of blarney.”
“It was on that trip that I fell in love and really understood my roots. So, when I came back, I started writing poetry. And that’s all I did initially — write poetry. Then I decided maybe I should try book. I wrote the first book, and then I did nothing with it for a year and a half. I just stuck it away,” he recalled.
“Then I met the people in the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild and realized how much I didn’t know about writing, and then literally rewrote the book — only this time on a much more professional level.”
Curran has taken the role of author seriously, and has done much to improve his writing and networking in the industry, having also joined the Eastern Shore Writers’ Guild and Maryland Writers’ Association.
“It’s just fun for me. I love writing. I’m definitely getting better at it — there’s no question.”
Through the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild, Curran was hooked up with four other writers to help each other with their novels. Now comprising four individuals, the group meets twice a week.
“It’s the Gray Guys Group,” he said, noting with a laugh that the name is derived from the color of their hair. “We have all improved tremendously as writers because of the criticism. It’s not harsh, but it’s hard. We don’t sugarcoat anything, don’t insult anyone, but we also don’t sugarcoat it.”
The guild, Curran said, has been a great resource for him throughout the process, one which he said has been invaluable.
“The Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild is a great at-home face. It’s a huge support group for everybody. When Maribeth Fischer suggested to the three of us that we do this… It’s all about, how can I help somebody else become a better writer.”
Curran said he started working on the third and final installment of the series — which will take place in the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand — just a week after completing “On to Africa.”
“Like anyone, you want people to like your book,” he said. “I’m not in this to make a living … but I want people to read the book. I want people to enjoy the book.”
Along with completing the third installment, he’s also researching another book he has in the works, and is still writing poetry.
The sea has always provided a plethora of adventure and stories for Curran, and he hopes readers will enjoy them as much as he enjoyed writing — and, in some cases, experiencing — them.
“The waterfront is a hell of a place to work, whether you’re shipping out on ships or just working on the waterfront, and I spent all my life on the waterfront. I can tell you there’s terrific stories on the waterfront and some really great characters, too.”
Against the backdrop of a spectacular sunset, a World War II observation tower became a dramatically lighted landmark on Monday, Feb. 12, while state officials touted the results of a study showing the equally dramatic impact of Delaware’s state parks on its economy.
The addition of cobalt-blue lighting to Tower 3, located just south of Dewey Beach in Delaware Seashore State Park, signals the next step in the restoration of the tower, one of 11 built along the Delaware coast between 1939 and 1942. The towers were used to track enemy vessels off the coast. Using triangulation to plot the ship’s location, observers then transmitted the information to Fort Miles, now part of Cape Henlopen State Park, where the readings were plotted on a large map.
Using that information, large guns at Fort Miles could then be aimed in the direction of the ships. The guns — with 6-inch, 12-inch and 16-inch barrels — could fire 2,700-pound shells 25 miles. But the guns were never fired at an enemy ship.
Currently, only Tower 7 at Cape Henlopen, which sits next to Fort Miles, is open to the public. Once the restoration of Tower 3 is complete, plans include opening it to the general public as well, with interpretive tours available. Eventually, the Delaware Shore Preservation Foundation hopes to also open Tower 1 in Fenwick Island State Park and Tower 2 in North Bethany.
Fundraising is under way for the towers restoration project, with a goal of $500,000 total. The project is a cooperative venture between the Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation and the Fort Miles Historical Association, which also teamed up in the restoration of Tower 7.
The lighting of Tower 3 came after the presentation of some of the findings of a study, completed last year, on the economic impact of the state parks. The report, commissioned by the Delaware Division of Parks & Recreation, covers the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. The analysis within the report translates information about “main-purpose” state park visitors into a picture of how those visitors impact the state’s economy.
“Main-purpose” visitors are defined in the study as those whose primary purpose is to visit a state park.
The research was conducted by Rockport Analytics, which has offices in West Chester, Pa., and Baltimore, Md.
Among the study’s findings are the following:
• In the 2016/2017 fiscal year, there were an estimated 4.1 million visits to Delaware’s 16 state parks. Of that, 1.6 million were considered “primary visitors” — those who traveled at least 50 miles and said a state park was the primary reason for their visit.
• Park visitors were primarily “middle-aged,” with 66 percent of them being between the ages of 35 and 64. Only 2 percent of visitors were younger than 25, while 1 percent was older than 75.
• Length of stay for visitors varied, with 19 percent of the visits being day trips, 29 percent one-to-three-night stays, 22 percent four-to-five-night stays and 18 percent staying six or more nights.
• Park visitors spent nearly $398 million on goods and services in the state in the 2016 fiscal year — an average of $245 per visitor. Of that total, the study estimated that $376 million remained in Delaware to contribute to the state’s economy.
• Including Delaware State Parks employees, nearly 6,700 full- and part-time jobs were supported by the state parks system in the 2016 fiscal year, with an average annual wage of $34,000.
• The state parks with campgrounds made the largest contribution to the state’s economy of any of the parks in the statewide parks system, with those parks representing 82 percent of the parks’ total economic impact.
• Delaware Seashore State Park had the most visitors and contributed the most money to the state’s economy of any of the state parks. Total attendance at DSSP in the 2016 fiscal year was 1,055,800 people. Total visitor spending by DSSP visitors was $173 million in the 2016 fiscal year.
Speakers at the invitation-only event at Tower 3 on Monday included Gov. John Carney and DSPF Vice President Shirley Price. Carney said that, as he drove south along Route 1 and witnessed the sunset over the bays, “I was really just reminded of what a really special place that we have here in Delaware.” He added that what makes it so special is its “natural beauty and natural attributes that we celebrate here.”
Carney also lauded the efforts by the two groups that spearheaded the restoration of the tower, as well as state parks employees who help make the state parks the valuable assets that they are.
Price told the crowd in a heated tent next to the tower that plans for the restoration include a computerized system that will be accessible to visitors to help connect the dots in the picture of the state’s coastal military history.
She praised the group known as the “Bunker Busters” at Fort Miles, who initiated the often-grueling task of clearing out the abandoned fort and the tower next to it.
“We’ve made significant progress through their efforts. Great job, guys,” she said.
Price said fundraising efforts are “going strong” and have been buoyed by a $130,000 challenge grant from the Longwood Foundation, which “challenged” the tower project organizers to raise $300,000 in order to receive the $130,000. The Coastal Trust Foundation has also given the project a total of $130,000.
Focus Multisports, Price said, gave the project a running start by providing $80,000 in funding over three years through the Coastal Delaware Running Festival. Numerous other businesses have contributed to the project, ranging from local banks to artist Ellen Rice, who has contributed a print as a fund-raising element.
If anything can slow this flu season down, it’s vaccines and good handwashing. Prevention is considered more important than ever, as the Delaware Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS) is rapidly updating its flu toll and on Wednesday confirmed the state’s 11th influenza-related death this flu season.
Nationally, widespread influenza activity has been reported by 48 states and Puerto Rico.
In a single week, Delaware’s flu virus diagnoses increased by as much as 61 percent. Mid-week, numbers were still coming in for Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, when Delaware reported at least 1,200 new laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza among Delaware residents, bringing the total from 1,950 to 3,150 confirmed cases for this winter. (The numbers are not final at this time, so the one-week total will likely be even higher.)
And on Feb. 14, DHSS reported that a 47-year-old woman from New Castle County had passed away.
“Unlike the 10 other individuals who have died from flu-related complications this flu season, this is the first case in which the individual did not have underlying or chronic health conditions. She was infected with influenza B, and records indicate she had not received a flu vaccine this season,” according to DHSS.
“Our hearts go out to her family, and to the families of the other 10 victims who have succumbed to this terrible disease. This most recent flu-related death is a solemn and stark reminder that the flu is unpredictable and can be fatal to individuals who are considered otherwise healthy. The number of influenza cases in Delaware is continuing to rise.”
The New Castle woman appeared to be the outlier so far this flu season. The other 10 victims were between 60 and 93 and had underlying health conditions. Three of the deaths were in Sussex County and the rest in New Castle.
Meanwhile, the overall 2017-2018 influenza season has hit Sussex County hard. With only 23 percent of the state’s population, Sussex was the last county to be infected but has now suffered at least 36.5 percent of all laboratory-confirmed flu cases.
“As to why Sussex is suffering a higher rate, there is no specific reason we can point to,” said Andrea Wojcik, acting section chief of the Office of Health & Risk Communication. “The flu is unpredictable, and easily spread. It varies in how it impacts individuals. We continue to urge residents to follow preventive measures, as we will likely continue to see elevated activity for weeks to come.”
“The previous [weekly] record was in the 2009-2010 season, in which we saw 671 cases in one week,” said Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health.
In Sussex and statewide, roughly 7 in 10 flu cases are Type A/no subtype. The next 20 percent are Type B/no lineage, and the last handful are varied in type.
Especially at risk to flu complications are people with respiratory conditions including COPD, severe asthma and lung cancer; any cancer treatment impacting the immune system; cardiovascular disease, diabetes; kidney disease; and many other chronic conditions.
Young children and older adults are most susceptible to flu and to hospitalization.
DHSS: Get the vaccine
It’s not too late to get a flu shot. Even though this year’s flu vaccine is less effective than in previous years, it can still reduce severity of symptoms. It can also help protect other people around the person with the flu.
“As long as flu viruses are still circulating, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine,” said Rattay. “It is difficult to tell when flu season will peak, but all signs indicate we are likely to continue to see elevated levels of flu activity for weeks to come.”
It is not recommended that people get the flu shot twice, except for children ages 6 to 8.
Although some people have had some difficulty finding the vaccine, the CDC says they are still available. People should call their primary-care physician or visit https://vaccinefinder.org. Also, Delawareans can visit flu.delaware.gov or call DPH at 1-800-282-8672 for a list of public health clinics within state service centers that are providing the vaccine.
Symptoms and treatment
Flu symptoms include: fever and/or chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue/tiredness, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults).
People should contact their primary-care provider for treatment recommendations or visit a walk-in care center. Some people can use telemedicine to video chat with a health professional, instead of leaving the house. The doctor may place them on antiviral medicine to help fight the disease.
“The hospitals are inundated right now — hospitals, walk-in clinics. I’ve … never seen anything like this in 25 years,” Marshall said.
“At this point, this is a very intense flu season. … Health systems, although they are strained at this point, they are doing a great job,” Rattay said.
People should visit the emergency room for serious illness, including for rapid or difficult breathing; pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen; sudden dizziness or confusion; severe or persistent vomiting; and flu-like symptoms that improve but then return even worse.
Children should immediately be taken to visit the emergency room if they show bluish skin color; fever with a rash; not drinking enough fluids; not waking up or not interacting; or being so irritable that the child does not want to be held.
Infants should be taken to the ER when unable to eat, crying without tears or having significantly fewer wet diapers than normal.
“People like that sanitizer — but there’s nothing like soap and water,” Marshall said.
People can reduce flu transmission by washing their hands often; using hand sanitizer and household disinfectants; covering coughs or sneezes with a tissue that is immediately thrown away; and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth.
Anyone with flu-like symptoms should stay home until they have been free of fever (with a temperature less than 100 degrees F), without the use of fever-reducing drugs, for at least 24 hours.
“At this point, there’s no reason for any of the schools to close because of this,” said Rattay, who called it “an intense flu season,” but not a pandemic.
Around Christmas, Delaware’s flu season was upgraded from “local” activity and jumped to “widespread.”
At the Southern Delaware School of the Arts, school nurse Barbara McMillen is keeping close tabs on the heavy-hitter viral diseases, including flu, strep throat and fifth disease, which causes a distinctive rash.
This year, it’s been an unusually higher amount of kids getting sick. I can’t say it’s impacted SDSA greatly,” she said, with less than 10 percent affected among the 470-student population.
Early this week, she estimated that only a few dozen students at a time are absent for illness. Just comparing a few days’ worth of attendance records, SDSA had anywhere from three to 15 more absences compared to the same days in 2017.
Still, schools and businesses are sending emails and making calls reminding people to stay safe.
Custodians and teachers are being encouraged to disinfect thoroughly, and even between classes. Parents shouldn’t send their kids back to school too early, either.
“Give them the proper rest that they need. … When they are not completely well, that makes them susceptible to catching other things,” McMillen said.
“The biggest part of this is hydration and rest. We are a busy society … but this is self-management of really doing some good self-care, and staying out of public places you really don’t have to go,” said Indian River High School nurse Melanie Marshall, who has seen increased absenteeism there.
More information about illness prevention is available online at www.cdc.gov. Delaware’s weekly flu updates are posted online at dhss.delaware.gov/dph/epi/influenzawkly.html.
People are turning their voices toward Washington, D.C., as the U.S. Department of the Interior eyes the Atlantic Ocean for potential oil and gas drilling activities.
Public comments are now being accepted on the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024.
Every five years, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) writes a national management plan for the outer continental shelf, about 50 miles from shore. Almost the entire United States coastline is up for discussion for potential oil and gas lease sales on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. That’s the north, south and Mid-Atlantic coast, plus Alaska, the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico.
There have been no lease sales in the Atlantic since 1983, and there are no existing leases.
Back on the table
If the subject sounds familiar, that’s because in the spring of 2016, the Atlantic was removed the 2017-2022 plan by the Obama Administration. In January 2017, approvals for seismic surveys were also denied in the Mid- and South Atlantic. More than 100 coastal towns, along with the economic, fisheries, tourism and military sectors, had fought to keep seismic testing and oil drilling out of the Atlantic Ocean for the 2017-2022 plan.
But federal policy changes with the presidential administration. Three months after his inauguration, President Donald Trump reversed some of those decisions and instructed Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to reconsider six geophysical and geological (G&G) permit applications for seismic surveys, which had already been rejected.
Moreover, BOEM was ordered to create a new National Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024, which would replace the 2017-2022 program.
The schedule is intended to include the size, timing and location of leasing activity that would best meet national energy needs. All details are online at www.boem.gov/National-Program.
The public comments
Public comments on the program will be accepted until Friday, March 9. Across the entire county, 23 public meetings are scheduled, in all coastline states, and in Washington, D.C. (The schedule is online at www.boem.gov/National-Program-Participate.)
The public can also view the same presentations from the physical meetings at the BOEM “virtual meeting room” (www.boem.gov/virtual).
BOEM staff strongly encouraged people to submit comments, said Fenwick Island’s Mary Ellen Langan after attending the Jan. 18 meeting in Dover.
“They said what was really important was to back up your comments with facts. Say, ‘I’m against it because of the economic impact, the environmental impact, what seismic testing does to the marine life,’ et cetera,” Langan said. “That’s much more effective than a form letter that everybody sends out and says the same thing.”
“American energy production can be competitive while remaining safe and environmentally sound,” said Acting BOEM Director Walter Cruickshank. “Public input is a crucial part of this process, and we hope to hear from industry groups, elected officials, other government agencies, concerned citizens and others as we move forward with developing the 2019-2024 National OCS Program.”
All of Delaware’s oceanfront towns already opposed seismic testing and/or offshore drilling activities along the Atlantic Coast. Now, they’re dusting off their paperwork, changing the date and reminding BOEM of their steadfast and unanimous opposition.
Where to look
Potential lease sales include nine sales across the Atlantic, 19 off the Alaska coast, seven in the Pacific and 12 in the Gulf of Mexico. Maps include “potential exclusions” of the Atlantic canyons and a 25-mile buffer from the coast. It is the largest number of lease sales ever proposed in a five-year lease schedule. “By comparison, the current program puts 94 percent of the OCS off-limits,” according to BOEM.
Before anyone begins drilling, companies must figure out where oil reserves are located. They must secure BOEM permits for testing, which is commonly achieved through deep-penetration seismic surveys. In the surveys, large ships tow airguns through the water, with the guns shooting loud soundwaves, strong enough to pierce the undersea rock. The soundwaves echo back to streamers behind the ship, showing different layers of rock and creating a picture of where oil may be located.
In addition to concerns about potential damage from oil drilling activity that could follow such testing, opponents have expressed strong concerns that the testing itself can injure or otherwise negatively impact wildlife, including marine mammals.
By increasing lease areas and drilling, the U.S. could rely less on foreign energy imports, supporters have said.
“By proposing to open up nearly the entire OCS for potential oil and gas exploration, the United States can advance the goal of moving from aspiring for energy independence to attaining energy dominance,” said Vincent DeVito, a DOI counselor for energy policy.
The BOEM currently manages about 2,900 active OCS leases, covering almost 15.3 million acres, mostly in the Gulf of Mexico. In the 2016 fiscal year, oil and gas leases on the OCS accounted for approximately 18 percent of domestic oil production and 4 percent of domestic natural gas production.
The DOI will also prepare a draft programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) to be published concurrently with the proposed program (PP), and a final EIS with the proposed final program (PFP).
The process and debate
Inclusion of an area in the draft proposed program (DPP) does not mean it’ll appear in the final approved program or be offered in a lease sale.
“By proposing to open these areas for consideration, the Secretary ensures that he will receive public input and analysis on all of the available OCS to better inform future decisions on the National OCS Program,” according to BOEM.
The U.S. will continue operating under the 2017-2022 Five Year Program until the new National OCS Program is approved.
This is just one step in a multi-year process. Input from the draft proposed program (DPP) leads to a proposed program, which will also be available for public comment, before publication of the proposed final program. The Secretary makes final decisions on all three. The analysis considers oil and gas resource estimates versus the economic, environmental and social costs required to extract those resources.
For instance, drilling could increase jobs and tax revenue, but opponents suggested that Atlantic jobs would simply go to current Gulf of Mexico experts.
People also fear impacts of seismic testing on wildlife, both an environmental concern and economic driver for the fisheries and tourism. The ultimate nightmare would be an oil spill, which could devastate Delaware’s coastal tourism industry.
“Delaware’s beaches bring in $6.9 billion each year and support 10 percent of our state’s workforce,” stated U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons (both D-Del.) “An oil spill off our coast would be devastating, resulting in severe environmental and financial costs that would last for generations.”
Many of Delaware’s Democratic lawmakers and officials have also opposed the plan. Gov. John Carney joined a bipartisan group of seven Atlantic-state governors opposing oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean and requesting an exemption, like the one the state of Florida recently received.
Comments are preferred to be submitted online by visiting www.boem.gov/comment or www.regulations.gov (search for “boem-2017-0074”). Letters are also being accepted, to Ms. Kelly Hammerle; National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program Manager; Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (VAM-LD); 45600 Woodland Rd.; Sterling, VA 20166-9216.
The Town of Selbyville has canceled its 2018 town council elections due to lack of challengers.
Longtime incumbents Richard Duncan Sr. and Jay Murray both filed for re-election, and there were no other candidates. Their terms will begin in March and will last two years.
The election was originally scheduled for March 3.
“Valor is the demonstration of boldness and bravery in the face of adversity and danger. In our communities, it is our first-responders who sacrifice their own time and often their safety in order to protect the lives of others,” said Patti Grimes, the executive director of Carl M. Freeman and Joshua M. Freeman foundations, at the 14th Annual Joshua M. Freeman Valor Awards.
The award ceremony, hosted by the Carl M. Freeman Companies with the help of the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce, gets its name from Josh Freeman, who served as a Green Beret.
“Hosting the Valor Awards is a privilege for our Chamber, allowing us the opportunity to give thanks for all that our first-responders do in support of our Chamber businesses, communities, and signature events and initiatives we host each year,” said Lauren Weaver, the Chamber’s executive director.
All those recognized at the Feb. 9 luncheon at the Den at Bear Trap Dunes were nominated by their own departments, and received a plaque and gift card to Hocker’s from Beebe Healthcare.
This year, Ocean View Police Department Officer First Class Nicholas Harrington and Worcester County (Md.) Sheriff’s Deputy First Class Anthony Rhode received the overall Valor Award for their involvement in an incident on March 18, 2017.
The incident began just after 8 p.m. in Ocean City, Md., when Rhode initiated a traffic stop for a suspected drunk driver.
“Instead of stopping, the suspect turned off his headlights and fled at a high rate of speed,” related Kami Banks-Kane of Banks Wines & Spirits. “After alluding Deputy Rhode, the suspect trashed his vehicle in West Ocean City and fled on foot. Over the next two hours, the driver stole and wrecked several vehicles, all while alluding authorities.
“At one point, the suspect broke into an occupied home in Bishopville. As the female homeowner was bathing, the suspect entered her bedroom, stole her purse, car keys and a large kitchen knife. The suspect then fled the area in the homeowner’s vehicle, crossing state lines into Delaware.”
Rhode later found the vehicle parked near Frankford, a location from which the suspect would flee once more, heading in the direction of Ocean View.
“Deputy Rhode requested assistance from the Ocean View Police Department. Officer Nicholas Harrington of the Ocean View Police Department responded and caught up to the stolen vehicle with Deputy Rhode,” said Banks. “The suspect finally stopped, and Officer Harrington pulled in behind him. The suspect threw his vehicle into reverse, violently ramming Harrington’s patrol vehicle, before driving off into a field.
“Although injured and stunned, Officer Harrington quickly climbed out of the passenger side door of his heavily-damaged patrol vehicle and ran to the aid of Deputy Rhode, in pursuit of the suspect on foot.”
The suspect, apparently realizing they were on a dead-end street, turned the vehicle around and drove at an accelerated speed toward both officers.
“The officers, who were in danger of being run over, discharged their handguns at the vehicle. Only after being struck by gunfire did the suspect swerve away from the officers before crashing into the front yard of an occupied home,” said Banks-Kane, noting that the officers then removed the suspect from the vehicle to administer first aid.
“An investigation revealed he was under the influence of multiple drugs during the time of the incident,” she noted. “The actions of both Officer Harrington and Deputy Rhodes were reviewed and found to be justifiable in light of the extreme danger the suspect posed to the officers and the public.”
Harrington, who joined the Ocean View Police Department in April 2012, has been previously recognized for his service to the community with a 2013 Valor Award nomination for his work on drug crimes. Harrington, along with fellow OVPD Officer Justin Hopkins, also received the Valor Award in 2015 after responding to an incident in which a 2-year-old girl had been accidentally shot.
“I’m very humbled,” said Harrington of winning the 2018 award. “It just goes back to show that training pays off. Chief [Ken McLaughlin] just gives us so much training to us… It just paid off.”
Harrington is a first-generation law-enforcement officer who has spent his entire career with OVPD.
“Everything,” he said what he enjoys about the job. “It’s always something different. We get to help people who need help and try to make a difference.”
Harrington said he had never interacted with Rhode prior to the March 18, 2017, incident, and didn’t actually formally meet the deputy until the two met for lunch a few months later.
McLaughlin said he and OVPD Capt. Health Hall review all the department’s “critical incidents” when considering their nomination each year.
“Without a doubt… the incident stood out — the intensity, the danger involved,” said McLaughlin.
He thanked the Chamber for allowing him to also nominate Deputy Rhode, who was given a honorary award for his part in the incident.
“I didn’t feel right nominating Nick without nominating Deputy First Class Rhode, because it was a two-man affair,” he said. “We consider it to be our most prestigious award in the Ocean View Police Department.”
Another nominee for the 2018 award was Dagsboro Police Department Patrolman Tyler Bare, who also served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Bare responded to a call on June 6 for officers to aid a Delaware animal-control officer who was being actively attacked by a dog. Bare was the first on the scene.
“Patrolman Bare immediately engaged the animal, which only increased the ferocity of its attack,” said Banks-Kane, noting that Bare had stepped in between the dog and the victim in order to euthanize the animal.
The victim, who received more than 100 stitches, was treated and later released.
“Officer Bare’s actions were decisive, crucial to the preservation of life and limb, and heroic in bringing this brutal attack to closure,” said Banks-Kane.
Detective Laurence Corrigan of the Selbyville Police Department was recognized for his work related to a sexual abuse case.
“In early 2017, he became aware of a possible assault on two young female students under the age of 12 by a friend of the family,” said Banks-Kane.
Corrigan built a rapport with the two children and was able to garner information that would lead to the identification and apprehension of the suspect — prior to the suspect’s “probable fleeing of the country.”
The suspect was later charged with 15 counts, including rape and continuous sexual conduct, for abuse that spanned almost two years. He went on to plead guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Bethany Beach Police Department Sgt. Brandon Elliott was recognized for his work involving home improvement scams in the town.
Elliott began work on the investigation in June of 2017, after being dispatched to a report of “home improvement fraud” in which a 92-year-old senior was allegedly told his driveway needed to be resurfaced, with the suspect allegedly taking $1,000 from the homeowner and leaving without doing the agreed-upon work.
Elliott’s investigation crossed state lines into Maryland and Virginia, following the suspect, who allegedly stole more than $30,000 from Bethany Beach residents alone. The suspect is now incarcerated.
Firefighters recognized for service
Coastal Point Editor-In-Chief Darin J. McCann, helped recognize this year’s nominated firefighters, including John S. Evans III of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company.
“A newer senior member, Evans joined the Millville Volunteer Fire Co. as a junior fireman in 2014. As a junior fireman, he was very active, serving as an officer. He could always be counted on to attend and participate in company drills and details, even though it was not a requirement. As a junior fireman, he took great pride and care in helping to maintain company property and apparatus,” said McCann.
Evans was accepted as a senior active member in March of 2017 and has continued to demonstrate pride, work ethic and commitment, his nomination noted.
“Evans exemplifies the highest traditions of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company and serves as a role model for our younger membership and the future of the department,” said McCann. “In 2017, he was Millville Volunteer Fire Company Firefighter of the Year.”
Robert Odom of the Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company was recognized for his commitment to helping his community, as an associate member of the SVFC, driving the ambulance on overnight shifts.
“This March, Bob will earn his first Phoenix Award as a member of the EMS crew that saved the life of a local man that went into sudden cardiac arrest,” McCann said.
In 2017, Odom went completed a fire-police course through Delaware State Fire School and was sworn in as a Delaware fire-police officer, after learning of a need for more officers.
“A pastor by day, Sussex County paramedics also brought Bob in as their chaplain, where he was instrumental in implementing the Critical Incident Stress Management program. This team is charged with helping first-responders deal with the stress of the worst-of-the-worst calls and looking out for the general mental well-being.”
Frankford Volunteer Fire Company’s Jamie Reed was also recognized for his actions on the evening of Sept. 15, 2017.
“Without warning, one of Jamie’s neighbors ran over to his house, carrying a 19-month-old baby who was turning blue from choking. Jamie, who has had some basic EMS training, stepped into action and started using the back-slap technique to get the object out of the baby. After a few back slaps, the object was dislodged, the baby began breathing, and 911 was called.
“The baby was transported to a local hospital to be evaluated, and has since made a full recovery. Whether on the job or off, you’re always on call. Thanks to Jamie’s quick actions, a young life was saved.”
Sara Booth, president of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce and a representative of NVHomes and Ryan Homes, recognized a group of firefighters and EMTs.
Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company’s Dillon Baker, Brice Hickman, Bryan Smith and Joe West were recognized for their actions on Sept. 21, when they responded to a call to a cardiac arrest on the beach near Ocean View Parkway.
“Baker and Hickman responded quickly in Ambulance 70, followed by Smith in a utility vehicle and West in an ATV vehicle,” said Booth. “They arrived to find a 65-year-old male lying on the beach in cardiac arrest. CPR had been started by family members and bystanders, and the family stated that the patient went into the ocean to swim when he disappeared for approximately 5 minutes. He was finally located, and family members managed to get the patient to shore and initiate the 911 system.”
During the incident, a large wave crashed next to the crews, forcing them to react quickly and move the patient to an ATV to be safely transported to the hospital.
“The patient suffered C3 and C5 fractures of his spine. Although restricted to a wheelchair, the patient is doing well and is mentally sharp, due to the quick response by family members, bystanders and emergency service personnel,” Booth said.
EMTs recognized for saving lives and more
Jim Smith, senior public affairs manager for Delmarva Power, recognized EMTs Keith Baker and Andrew Wallace Evans of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company for their response to a call of cardiac arrest of Dec. 11, 2017.
“The crew arrived to find CPR already in progress from a bystander, and the victim without a pulse. EMT Baker took over chest compressions as EMT Evans prepared and administered a shock from an AED. Paramedics arrived on scene and started their advanced cardiac life support procedures,” Smith said. “The patient survived thanks to the quick response of Baker and Evans, and is making a remarkable recovery with a new pacemaker.”
Baker and Evans were also hailed for their efforts, along with the efforts of Sussex County EMTs Jordan Dattoli and Amanda McCloskey, for their response to a call on Dec. 18, 2017, for an unresponsive 42-year-old woman who was also in cardiac arrest. The patient was found by her husband, unresponsive, lying on the bed. After calling 911, the husband then began performing CPR while waiting for EMTs to arrive.
“Working alongside the Millville EMS unit previously recognized, crews immediately started advanced life support care, which was successful in returning pulses to the patient during transport,” said Smith. “It was identified during transport that the patient was having an extensive heart attack, which the crew treated aggressively, thinking outside the box and providing extraordinary post resuscitative and cardiac care during the remainder of the transport.”
The crews provided care upon arrival, and the patient and her family were able to celebrate the holidays at home.
Justin Brasure of the Roxana Volunteer Fire Company was recognized for his ongoing dedication to the department and the protection of the public they serve. Brasure first joined the company as a junior member in 2004 and has climbed the ranks ever since.
“In the short time that he has been driving the ambulance, he has stepped up multiple times — filling in for last-minute call-outs, stand-bys, splitting out crews and taking on-call nights without question or hesitation. Recognized as one of Roxana’s Top 10 drivers, Brasure is always willing to help and always stepping forward to ask what else he can do to help.”
Weaver said having responsive emergency personnel is critical to keeping the Quiet Resorts a safe and friendly place for both residents and visitors alike.
Those who drive Route 26 in Ocean View with any frequency may have noticed that the white craftsman-style home on the northwest corner of Atlantic Avenue (Route 26) and Woodland Avenue is no longer standing. The house was removed at the end of January in preparation for construction of a commercial center.
The property has been in the Archut family for more than 100 years, first purchased by Dianne Archut’s great-grandfather Charles Johnson.
He “built the house on it in the early 1920s,” said Russell Archut, Dianne Archut’s husband. “He lived there until he passed away. Then it was passed down to Diane’s mom, and Diane’s mom and dad rented it for a while. Numerous people lived there… school teachers that taught at LB used to rent a room there. Then it was some general renters.”
Archut and his wife moved into the home in 1978, and the family lived there until 2003.
Their son Brenton was born in Milford, he said, “and was brought home to that house.”
With the area growing fast, Archut said the family decided to move to an area with less traffic.
“That was one of the reasons for moving out of it,” he said. “We basically stayed until 2003. From 1978 until then, the traffic increased dramatically. Delivery trucks would come through early in the morning, going to the Food Lion. Saturday mornings, you had to turn right to go east.”
“Even in the early ’90s, the traffic was so bad they didn’t want me to walk to school, and it’s a 10th of a mile down the road,” added Brenton Archut.
“It just got to the point where it got too busy for us,” said Russell Archut. “So, we approached the Town [of Ocean View] and asked for business zoning. We rented it to some home-design places from then until now.”
While the family was living at the property, they would often walk to Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist to attend church. Brenton would also walk there for Boy Scout meetings.
“When he got his first job at Fisher’s down in Bethany, he could ride down 26,” said Russell Archut. “We liked living in town for as long as we were there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a residential neighborhood anymore.”
A few years after the Archuts sought the change of zoning, the Town of Ocean View blanket-zoned Route 26 for General Business use.
Having the older residential home being used for commercial purposes wasn’t a perfect fit, the family felt, so they decided a few years ago to seek to develop the property so it could offer more commercial retail opportunities.
“A lot of things were changing. The State was getting ready to widen Route 26. The stormwater regulations were being reviewed; they were talking about making them more restrictive. We were just in a position where we felt like we were able to develop the property and use it more fully,” said Russell Archut.
The property, as it was, was not being used to its potential, they felt, so the family decided to move forward with development.
“The fire marshal wouldn’t let us use the upstairs… We would’ve had to put a lot of improvements into the property in order to increase its use. It just wasn’t worth it to make improvements to the old house. The old house, even though it looked nice — we got a lot of compliments on it — it had some issues. The floors were sagging terribly…” said Russell Archut.
“The other thing that presses you to do that is — like, that side yard on the west side was open. When we stopped farming that, the Town required us to cut it like it was a yard. There came additional obligations and expenses to keep things looking appropriate for a town setting. Just a lot of things like that added up.”
“It’s just getting busier all the time,” added Brenton Archut. “Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of space on Route 26 for this type of thing, and we’re fortunate enough to own the land. I just had somebody call me the other day and ask me how much we paid for the property. I said, ‘Well, it’s been in our family for more than 100 years. So, I couldn’t tell you.’ … It’s our family business — commercial leasing — and it feels like a good fit. It’s only getting busier.”
The family said they heard people were upset about the change after the white cottage was razed last month.
“It wasn’t going to work on our plan. It needed to be either demolished or removed. We didn’t advertise it, but we told anyone who asked that it was free for the taking. If you wanted to pay to move it, we were more than willing to let someone move it off the property,” said Brenton Archut. “We did have someone inquire seriously about moving the house, and once they looked at the cost of where to move it.”
“Unfortunately, all the wires have to be removed, you have to get the police involved, traffic control, Delmarva Power… It was just cost-prohibitive,” said Russell Archut.
Restaurant, small storefronts planned
The 3.3-acre property, which has now been cleared of buildings and trees, will house a 9,000-square foot retail/office space with up to five separate businesses, as well as a 5,000-square foot restaurant.
“We’ve taken some efforts to have a nice-looking product on the property. I’ve heard things like, ‘You’re putting in a strip shopping center.’ We don’t see it as a strip shopping center — we see it as a commercial building. There are only five storefronts at the most. If we get multiple tenants taking up multiple storefronts, it’ll be less,” said Russell Archut of the retail building.
“It’s got a hip-roof design. If you look at the homes behind it in The Cottages, they have a similar design. It’ll fit in nice. We tried to capture the look of the old house. We added dormers on the front of the roof.
“We don’t want it to look strictly like a commercial building — we want it to look more like it’s suited to the coastal area that we’re in.”
The family chose to cover all four sides of the building in lapboard siding, with the front and sides having stone accents.
“If we were strictly worried about income versus expenses, we wouldn’t worry about those extra finishes on the building,” he said.
The footprint of the two buildings is relatively small, compared to what could’ve been on the property had the family sought one retail space, minus the restaurant.
“We could’ve fit up to 35,000 square feet. We’re doing significantly less,” said Brenton Archut, noting that the buildings cover less than 10 percent of the property.
“When you look at how much space you have and how much we’re permitted to build, it’s not as significant as people would say,” added Russell Archut.
Construction of the retail space is expected to be completed by early fall.
“At this point, we may let the restaurant build it, so it may be unique to whatever their theme is. But, again, if we were to build the building, we would look at doing something tasteful and not utilitarian,” he said.
No leases have currently been signed on the five retail spaces, but the property has garnered interest from the business community, they said.
“We can’t specifically say who. When we first put it out there, we thought it was going to take a decent amount of time to fill. We had a lot of interest right off the bat for both buildings,” said Brenton Archut.
“We got held up a little bit with the permitting process and the developing process… It’s cooled down a little bit, but we expect once we start on the building and people can actually see what’s going there, we expect it will pick back up. I’ve talked to a lot of people just in the last few months who are interested in space on Route 26 — there’s just nowhere to go.”
“I like the concept of doing the smaller stores, because it gives people the opportunity to have a store or start a business,” said Russell Archut. “At least by having individual storefronts here, there’s more opportunity for local people to take advantage of it.”
The restaurant would not begin construction until the fall, depending on if and when a tenant is secured. The eatery will not be a fast-food restaurant, as the Town does not allow for such an establishment without a special-use exception, for which the Archuts have not applied.
“We have not entertained any fast-food options,” said Brenton Archut. “Our entrances are not improved for the increased traffic that would leave from a fast-food restaurant. We were actually informed of that by DelDOT when we met with them. We’re expecting it to be a quality sit-down restaurant where people would be eating there for a significant amount of time.”
Neighbors, infrastructure considered in plan
Neighboring properties were given a great deal of consideration when designing the retail space, said the Archuts, noting that the building will be 200 feet from the back property line, with a good amount of open/green space in between.
“Because we have so much land, we’ve had the opportunity to be a little more generous on how we’ve laid things out, and on our setbacks and clearances from adjacent properties,” said Russell Archut.
The concerns of neighbors, voiced at numerous public hearings for the project and since the house was razed, were heard by the family.
“We have tried to be cognizant of the folks here,” said Russell Archut, noting they approached Sussex Conservation District to see if they could plant trees in the dry pond to give neighbors more of a buffer.
“Instead of it being this big open space that you would look across, we can put some sizable trees,” he said. “If we did landscaping along the property line, you’d be restricted to smaller trees and shrubs and things like that. This gives us the opportunity to plant some trees that will grow full size. These [cedar] trees may actually grow to 60 feet tall. It’s not like you’re going to be looking straight across at a parking lot. There’ll be grass and these trees.”
Archut said the trees will be “strategically planted” to help shield their view, and that he believes some of the concern stems from people not being able to visualize the final product.
“I think it’s going to be much more visually pleasing than they think,” he added. “I would ask people to wait and see what it looks like before they think we’re just trying to bulldoze everything down so they have to look at the back of a building. In the long run, this may work better for them than they think.”
A fence along the back property line was not a viable option, as it would’ve interfered with the drainage system.
Making decisions regarding lighting and the placement of waste receptacles, the Archuts said they continued to keep their neighbors in mind.
“On the lighting, we have proposed… we’re using shoeboxes — they basically focus down — on the backside of the property, and we’re putting high-pressure sodium lights in, which is more of a yellow light,” said Russell Archut. “The lights out front are Grandville — more of a carriage-light style. They’re completely open all the way around, so the light comes out, and those will be LEDs.
“We moved Dumpsters around to accommodate some of the things they heard from neighbors,” he noted. “It cost us a parking space or two to do it, but we were willing to do that for the neighbors. These are some of the things we tried to do.”
The property will be accessible via its current entrance on Route 26, as well as a side entrance from Woodland Avenue.
“It’s adding sidewalks down Woodland Avenue so people from the Woodland portion of town will have a safe place to walk to get to the Route 26 corridor. We’ve tried to tie that in nicely with all our accesses to the property, with crossovers, to give people the opportunity to walk in,” said Russell Archut.
Brenton Archut said they inquired to the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) about placing a traffic signal at that intersection, at their own expense.
“We were told the traffic count didn’t justify a light at that intersection,” he said.
“We fully expected that to be possible, and it would’ve been a benefit to us,” Russell Archut added.
Getting to the point where the property could be cleared for construction to begin took a great deal of time, while working with numerous state agencies.
“It took us about three and a half years to get to the point where we’re breaking ground. Trying to get through all of the approval processes is daunting,” said Russell Archut. “It takes a process to have a project that works for you and works for everybody else.”
Once construction is complete, the property will also bring in money for the Town, including 5 percent of all the rent paid per year, business license fees and property taxes. The family will even be paying money toward the cost of the Route 26 improvement project.
“We were required to pay a contribution toward the Route 26 improvements,” said Russell Archut. “We’re obligated to do that when we get our certificates-of-occupancy for each of the buildings. DelDOT has figured out what it is based on the cost of the Route 26 project divided by the amount of traffic on it.”
The Archuts said the new commercial space has been a long time coming, and they are excited to bring more business opportunities to the area.
“When a community continues to grow as much as ours has, additional services have to be provided,” Brenton Archut said. “It is our hope that this retail and restaurant space will provide important services to the community while also providing additional space for businesses in our area to grow.”
The Ropewalk restaurant location in Bethany Beach, now under construction on Garfield Parkway, received approval of its liquor license on Tuesday, Feb. 13, after a nearly two-hour hearing before the state’s Office of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner.
The approval came despite protests from some who testified against the restaurant’s liquor license application at the hearing, which was set in motion in accordance with state regulations after more than 10 people who reside within a mile of the applicant’s location filed formal protests.
The restaurant, which will seat 309 diners and 16 people at a bar, is scheduled to open in mid-June, according to Chris Reda, a Ropewalk co-owner who testified at the hearing.
Several opponents of Ropewalk’s liquor license application testified at the Feb. 13 hearing in Georgetown.
Susan Myer, who lives in the Salt Pond community outside the Bethany Beach town limits, questioned Reda as to why the restaurant owners chose to locate in the downtown area, which she said already has parking issues, when there are hundreds of new homes going up just to the west of the beach area, where she said a new restaurant would be welcome.
“Trying to get into Bethany during the ‘on’ season is very difficult,” Myer said.
“That’s where the people are,” Reda replied, adding that he doesn’t feel the restaurant will add to Bethany’s parking issues because “we don’t need people to come in” from outside of town. “They’re already here.”
Reda said the restaurant is committed to being a positive addition to the town. He said they were drawn to the “family atmosphere” of Bethany Beach and that restaurant will have a “bigger playground area than we do bar area.” He said he personally has received “overwhelmingly positive” feedback from community members, including more than 300 who had signed a petition in support of the restaurant.
Citing what she said were issues in a parking lot adjacent to a former Ropewalk location in Bel Air, Md., Bethany Beach resident Susan Fried asked Reda about plans for security at the Bethany Beach restaurant. Reda replied that there are no plans for a specific security detail in Bethany Beach, but added, “We will have playground monitors to make sure the kids don’t get too rowdy.”
When Myer asked where people who do come to town to dine at Ropewalk would park, Reda said, “I don’t have an answer for that.” He offered the increasing popularity of ride sharing services such as Uber as a possibility for those who are worried about finding a parking spot.
Michael Loftus of Bethany Beach testified that he felt the restaurant would have negative impacts on parking, traffic, pedestrian safety and noise, but said “parking impacts would be the worst.” Loftus, who said he lives four blocks from the new restaurant, testified that, “When we found out about this restaurant, the Town had already proceeded with the permits.
“We believe that adding the volume of people and associated vehicles … will have significant impacts on the town and the quality of life in the town,” he said.
Bethany Beach Vice-Mayor Lew Killmer testified at the hearing that Bethany Beach’s population swells from 1,200 in the off-season to 22,000 in the summer. There are 895 parking spaces available throughout the town, Killmer said.
“Parking is always an issue,” Killmer acknowledged. “It’s not going to change by adding an additional restaurant.”
ABC Chairman Martin Ross said after announcing the commission’s decision that, despite the protesters’ complaints that the restaurant would exacerbate existing parking issues in the town, those issues were beyond the scope of the ABC. “That is the sole purview of the Town of Bethany Beach,” Ross said.
In a message to town residents sent out in November, Bethany Beach Town Manager Clifford Graviet had emphasized that the restaurant’s owners had successfully navigated “three major layers of review” in the Town to reach the point of applying for the liquor license.
First, Graviet said, the Town found the restaurant to be a permitted use in the C-1 (commercial) zoning district. Second, the restaurant’s exterior design met the criteria of the Town’s Commercial Design Review Committee, which Killmer heads, and which uses design guidelines developed through an architectural consultant who is also the architect of the restaurant.
Although some had said they felt the Town should not have permitted the restaurant’s proposed roof-top dining area, Graviet pointed out that the plans are no different than existing decks at other restaurants in Bethany, including Mango’s and Grotto Pizza.
Third, the construction of the restaurant met local and state guidelines, including stipulations preventing the business from becoming “more of a bar than a restaurant,” Graviet said.
There is no requirement for off-street parking for restaurants in Bethany Beach’s downtown area.
The restaurant’s application for a liquor license, Ross said, “met the criteria” for approval. “I don’t have the ability to impose zoning restrictions,” he said. “I don’t have the ability to impose parking restrictions.”
Attorney Chad Meredith, representing Ropewalk at the hearing, said the protesters failed to present a valid argument against the liquor license approval.
“We heard a lot of ‘belief,’ we heard a lot of ‘conjecture,’” Meredith said. “We did not hear anything that was based on facts.”
The Sussex County Optimist Club was founded barely six months ago, but they’re already making their mark in the community as they envision a brighter future.
“Our mission is to provide hope and positive vision, bringing out the best in our youth, our communities and ourselves,” said Connie Sohnleiter, president.
She founded the club last autumn after participating in a Pennsylvania branch of Optimist International for more than 20 years before moving to Lewes. The club was made official on Nov. 7, 2017.
So far, they’ve made big strides in their goals of fundraising, mentoring local youth and starting a Junior Optimist International (JOI) Club at Cape Henlopen High School.
“So, it’s just working with kids — whether it’s through schools, through the agencies, whatever. Just bringing out the best in kids,” said Adele James, a member and former educator.
As a native Sussex Countian, James is encouraging the club to expand to address needs on the less-affluent western side of Delaware, where she said there are more at-risk kids and more need.
“I was in education for 33 years, so I was aware of the issues,” she said.
And just as the seat of Sussex County government was moved from Lewes to Georgetown in the late 1700s for its more central location, so the Optimists meet in a more centralized location in the county seat.
The Sussex County group meets on the first and third Monday of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at J.D. Shuckers in Georgetown. They meet, eat and often have a guest speaker.
They welcome new members who want to share happiness and hard work, bringing out the best in themselves, their friends and the world.
The Sussex County Optimist Club kicked off its first season with a youth essay contest. Nearly 60 area high-schoolers participated.
The winners were, first place, Claudia Carey, a senior at Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences; second place, Curstyn Dutton, a junior at Sussex Academy; and third place, Olivia Tancredi, a senior at Cape Henlopen High School.
“Can society function without respect?” the essay prompt queried.
“Of course not,” each of the girls answered.
At a Feb. 19 dinner and award ceremony, the students were invited to read their essays aloud.
Carey wrote not just about the downsides of disrespecting others, but about self-acceptance.
“Once we are able to respect ourselves, a chain reaction will occur. We are able to see perspectives we never would have imagined, just by putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes for a moment,” Carey wrote.
Carey encouraged people to model good behavior and be more accepting of others, which she said improves overall communication. Her winning essay will move up to the next level of regional and possibly national competition.
All three students received a medal, cash prize and flowers.