BBLA Newsletter

 
 
Volume 1 - Spring 2020
 
BBLA Newsletter
 
 
BBLA Communications: Newsletter & Electronic Beach News
 
The BBLA Beach News is issued on a regular - as needed - basis to members via email.
 
The purpose of the BBLA Newsletter is to provide members with in-depth coverage of current issues/topics related to Bethany Beach and the surrounding areas.
 
Both publications are also available on the BBLA website
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RESCHEDULING OF ANNUAL MEETING:
 
Because of restrictions imposed in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic and state of emergency in Delaware, the BBLA Board of Directors has cancelled the Annual Meeting of the membership that had been scheduled for June 13. The Board plans to reschedule the meeting for a future date, utilizing virtual technology. Members will be notified of the new date and related details at least thirty days in advance.
 
Message from the BBLA President: Patrick McGuire
 
Despite the COVID-19 related closings and additional health risks we are all facing, taking a walk around Town is both refreshing and quite beautiful as our landscaping staff continues to work hard. Central Park is progressing and will be finished this summer. Real estate in Town is moving forward with new home construction sites going full speed and the home sales market activity at above average levels.
 
The BBLA Board continues to work via phone, email, and Zoom. Currently, the Board is focused on what can be done to help the local community through this crisis. We have identified multiple categories of need in the area and we will be increasing our donations to a number of organizations working in the southeastern portion of Sussex County. We will detail these donations in this and future BBLA publications. Your membership in BBLA and additional contributions are a tremendous help with our charitable giving. We will also continue to provide you with links to other suggested donation sites which benefit the beach community, if you would like to make individual donations.
 
The Town had the first online Town Council meeting on April 30th, and a second online meeting was held May 15th. The meeting featured a way for online viewers to send in questions and comments to the discussion about the shape of the summer season. Town Manager Graviet presented five recommendations on proceeding past May 15th. The recommendations received a favorable vote from   the Town Council. A detailed account of the Town's COVID-19-related actions can be found in the article below.
 
For 2020, an organizational area of focus for the BBLA Board is increasing effective communication to you, our members. We have hired Mary Louise Embrey to be our Communications Director. She attends Town meetings and other significant meetings, like the public hearing in Ocean City regarding the offshore wind farm. Our BBLA Beach News and this BBLA Newsletter reflect the efforts of Jerry Hardiman (long-time Newsletter Editor) and Mary Louise, as well as other Board Member contributors.
 
We are also in the process of a major overhaul of our website, led by Membership Secretary Ron Dobes. Ron is working with Mary Louise and Chip Smith to update the website information, add new content, and create a more “user friendly” site.
 
Plans for the virtual BBLA Annual Meeting are aimed at covering the business portion of the required annual meeting. Reports will be presented and the election of Officers and Board Members will take place at that time. A by-laws change allowing to hold all types of virtual meetings will also be introduced. Watch for the date of the virtual annual meeting and more details in upcoming editions of the BBLA Beach News.
 
We are pleased to keep you informed about what is happening in Bethany Beach, because as property owners I know you share the interest of our Board Members who want the Town to remain the wonderful “Quiet Resort” we have come to call our full-time or part-time homes. With following common-sense guidelines and restrictions, there will be safe ways for us to socialize and enjoy the sand as warm weather comes to Bethany Beach.  
 
 
Patrick McGuire
 
Articles
 
 
 
BBLA SUPPORTS OUR LOCAL COMMUNITY DURING CRISIS
 
As stated in BBLA’s Bylaws, our purpose as a civic organization is to “carry on charitable, educational and civic work for the improvement of the Town of Bethany Beach.” In this time of urgent need due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have become aware of the extent of the numerous business, individual and organization needs in our community and beyond in Sussex County.
 
The businesses in Bethany Beach have been severely impacted by the restrictions imposed by the State of Delaware relating to the pandemic. Even so, many of them are open to provide limited services. Many restaurants are providing online ordering and carry out, curbside pick-up and/or delivery at attractive pricing. Some of the retailers also have online ordering with curbside pick-up and/or shipping. In order to generate support for the business community, BBLA has purchased full page ads in the Coastal Point to list those restaurants and retail businesses within the Town that are open for business. It is our hope that these ads will attract customers among the Coastal Point readership who otherwise would not be aware of the services available. 
 
We have also made a $1,000 donation to the St. Vincent de Paul organization’s food pantry to help feed and provide other assistance to individuals and families who are in desperate need. The average number of families who have been helped monthly in pre-pandemic times is about 60. They are now trying to serve as many as 85 families per month.  There are other organizations in our area whose mission is to help feed those in need, such as the Southeast Sussex Ministerium who we recently supported with a $1,500 donation. The Ministerium is composed of 12-member churches, three of which are located in Bethany Beach. They serve our communities in myriad ways from food banks to helping with transportation, bills and other needs.
 
We have also supported the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition with a donation of $2,000 for their volunteer Peer Mentor program. The Mentors provide one-on-one support to help recently diagnosed breast cancer patients navigate their journey. Due to COVID-19, all patient contact has been online. Absent the hugs, the contact has still been effective. Lastly, we made a donation to Womenade by the Sea through the People’s Place II SAFE program. Womenade by the Sea is made up of many volunteers in our area. The donation was requested to purchase bedding for abused women and children who reside in SAFE shelters. Since the residents may take the bedding with them when they leave the shelters, there is a need to replace it frequently.  
 
At this time, there is no lack of opportunity to serve our community and any contributions of time or monetary donations are truly welcome. Please support our local restaurants and retail
businesses and/or volunteer to help one of the many organizations in need.   
 
2020 CENSUS: WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO PARTICIPATE
 
Completion of the 2020 Census has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a slow response to the on-line Census survey questions. Reports indicate that response to the Census in Delaware beach communities has been low so far.
 
Bethany Beach Council member Bruce Frye, who represents the Delaware League of Local Governments helping in this once-a-decade effort to count everyone living in the United States, explains why it is so important.
 
The decennial census is a nationwide count mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2020, we as Delawareans have an incredible opportunity to positively affect our state’s future for the next 10 years and beyond. The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources based on census data. The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.
 
If you haven’t already done so, please participate. Bruce says it’s easy. Go online to my2020census.gov or call 1-844-330-2020. Then you won’t have census workers knocking on your door to ask the questions; and you won’t have to participate again for ten years.
 
WIND FARM PROJECT DELAYED
 
Orsted Offshore Wind, LLC (Orsted) has announced that construction of the Skipjack Wind Farm off the coast of Bethany Beach will be delayed at least until 2023 because of the federal government review process.
 
 As members were informed by the BBLA Board earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) granted Skipjack Offshore Wind, LLC, which is now owned by Orsted, a lease for the construction of a wind farm in the designated area of the ocean. BOEM is the lead federal agency in the review of Orsted’s construction and operations plans, which includes technical and environmental impact studies.
 
BOEM recently reported that Orsted’s proposed construction plan is still under review, with no estimated completion date. Beyond completion of that process, it could take another two years for completion of an environmental study and review of Orsted’s plans by other federal agencies, including the Coast Guard, NOAA and EPA. Orsted cannot proceed without the necessary approvals and permits.
 
In view of the time required in the federal review process and the uncertainty of the outcome, it appears that Orsted’s plans are on hold. That would include its proposed plan to bring one or more high voltage cables from the wind farm turbines onshore in Fenwick Island State Park; and to build, operate and maintain transmission facilities in the Park connecting the electricity generated by the turbines to the Delmarva Power system.
 
That plan and a related Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), dated July 18, 2019, between Orsted and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Parks and Recreation concerning the lease, use and development of the Park by Orsted raised considerable public concern and controversy. Because some BBLA members supported the Orsted project while others opposed it, the BBLA Board did not take a position on the matter. Rather, we encouraged all members to participate in public meetings and comment opportunities and express their views.
 
The status of the MOU and whether there have been any negotiations between the parties or decisions by DNREC regarding the tentative agreements in the document is not known at this time. The Coastal Point reported in an article on May 1 that DNREC did not have any comment on the Orsted project.
 
The Bethany Beach Town Council, by Resolution dated February 21, 2020, noted several public concerns about the project, including: construction in normally protected wetlands; the potential effect on public health and safety; increased traffic; and the absence of any provision in the MOU or ongoing revenue to address adverse impacts on local communities and other funding needs. Because of those concerns, the Council requested “notification and opportunity for input into any future discussions and decisions regarding the project. . ..” We understand that as of the date of publication of this BBLA newsletter, the Council has not received any such notification and opportunity. It appears that the project is not under active consideration.
 
The BBLA Board will continue to monitor this project as it moves through the regulatory and environmental compliance process and keep our members informed.
 
 
RULES OF CONDUCT FOR THE BEACH AND BOARDWALK
 
With the beach fully reopening on Friday, May 22 (at 5:00 p.m.) with lifeguards on duty starting on Saturday, May 23, a number of rules, the first two mandated by the Governor, will apply.
 
  • Maintain 6-feet physical distancing
  • Face coverings are required on the boardwalk and recommended on the beach
  • Dogs are not permitted on the beach or boardwalk from May 15 to September 30, with the exception of law enforcement and service dogs under control
  • Smoking is prohibited on the beach and boardwalk, except in designated and clearly marked areas
  • Bicycles are prohibited on the boardwalk, except between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Bikes are never allowed on sidewalks
  • Skate boards, roller skates and in-line skates are prohibited at all times on the boardwalk and on sidewalks on Garfield Parkway from Route 1 to the boardwalk
  • Keep off the dunes
  • Standard-size umbrellas no larger than 8-feet in dimeter and so-called “baby tents” are the only shading devices permitted on the beach
  • Ball playing, kite flying and surf fishing are not allowed on the beach during the hours that life guards are on duty
  • Alcohol and glass containers are prohibited on the beach
  • No unauthorized individuals are allowed on the beach from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. 
 
TRASH COLLECTION SCHEDULE
 
The Bethany Beach Public Works Department staff intends to follow the usual trash collection schedule for the May 1 to September 30 season, as long as that continues to be possible. Visit the Trash Collection section of the Town website (townofbethanybeach.com) for details.
 
Please put garbage and regular trash in trash bags and do not put garbage and regular trash in the recycle bins. This is a reminder still necessary every year, on behalf of the hardworking Public Works staff to help them do their job efficiently.
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NEWSLETTER CONTRIBUTORS:
 
Jerry Hardiman -- Ron Dobes -- Claire Loftus -- Patrick McGuire -- Kathy Shorter -- Kathy Sierra -- Chip Smith -- Jim Tippett -- Mary Louise Embrey
 
TOWN COUNCIL DECIDES ON INITIAL PLANS FOR SUMMER
 
Because of frequent new developments in directives and guidance regarding the COVID-19 state of emergency in Delaware, plans for the summer in Bethany Beach have adjusted based on the changing conditions. The BBLA Board works to keep members promptly informed of developments through Beach News notices, website postings and links to other sources. This article is intended to summarize as much current information as possible and provide our members with a snapshot of conditions and plans as of May 15, 2020.
 
On May 15, the Town Council met via Zoom technology to consider Governor Carney’s announcement on May 14 reopening Delaware’s beaches effective on May 22. The Council discussed a number of recommendations presented by Town Manager Cliff Graviet and approved motions to:
 
1.    Fully reopen the beach on Friday at 5:00 p.m., May 22, with lifeguards on duty beginning on May 23.
The Town had already eased restrictions to a lesser extent and opened the beach and boardwalk effective on May 15, but just for walking and exercise.
2.    Begin pay-to-park and parking enforcement on June 1; post and strictly enforce 2-hour parking restrictions in the downtown commercial district; and add 50 to 60 free 15-minute parking spaces downtown to facilitate take-out and pick-up service at restaurants and eateries.
3.    Convert pay-to-park spaces on Atlantic Avenue outside the commercial district and all beach front street ends and parking lots to Residential Permit parking spaces; and further, to waive all Business Parking Permit fees.
It was emphasized here that all parking spaces on Pennsylvania Avenue would be long-term, pay-to-park spaces. Those spaces, as well as the 2-hour spaces downtown would be available to all, including visitors to Town from outside Bethany Beach.
4.    Based on the Governor’s advice to beach towns to control social distancing and crowds by limiting parking, the Town staff will monitor crowds on the beach, boardwalk and the downtown commercial district and the Town Manager may adjust parking restrictions as needed, and notify the Council and the public of any such adjustment.
 
This authorization will enable the Town Manager to promptly adjust restrictions as needed, without the necessity of a Council meeting or preapproval of such measures. For example, in the event of overcrowding on the beach, the Town Manager could close some parking lots on Atlantic Avenue. In the event of smaller crowds, the Town Manager could increase the number of pay-to-park spaces.
 
Although not discussed at the meeting, the Town later advised that the public restrooms in the bandstand area will remain closed and porta johns will not be available pending resolution of physical distancing, sanitation and health and safety issues for the public and Town staff. Obviously, this will have a significant effect on the time people spend on the beach and boardwalk.
 
In addition, two decisions of the Council at its April 30 meeting remain in effect as of May 15: 
 
  • All special events that attract large groups are cancelled until July 15, to include the July 4th parade and fireworks.
  • No permits will be issued for out of Town shuttles and the Town will not operate its trolleys until physical distancing restrictions are no longer necessary to protect public health.
 
One conclusion from the Council meetings is that the Town will continue to follow the Governor’s emergency orders , which, as Mr. Graviet emphasized, have the “force and effect of law”; and will consider CDC and State reopening guidelines as they apply to conditions in Bethany Beach. During the discussion on May 15, it was noted that a number of State requirements and restrictions for individuals remain in effect, including:
 
  • Maintain social distancing of at least 6-feet when outside residence, to the extent possible (See Governor Carney’s March 12 and March 22 Orders.)
  • Shelter-in-place at home or residence, except for essential travel and activities. (March 22 Order.) Recent notices limit the restriction to seniors over age 60 and those with chronic heath conditions.
  • Travelers entering Delaware from another state are required to self-quarantine for 14 days, with some exceptions. (March 29 Order)
  • Ban on most short-term rentals. (April 6 Order)
  • Wearing face coverings required in most public settings. (April 22 Order)
 
Local businesses have been planning for an expanded reopening in June. In welcome news for many businesses on May 15, Governor Carney announced guidance “for Phase 1 of Delaware’s rolling reopening,” which will begin on June 1. Restaurants and retail establishments will be able to reopen with capacity limited to 30 percent of fire code capacity, excluding staff. As with other announcements and orders, the Governor stressed the importance of maintaining strict adherence to health and safety guidelines, especially maintaining physical distancing, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. For detail of the Phase 1 Plan, read “ Delaware’s Reopening .”
 
For additional information and updates please visit the Town website . Other valuable resources include: Coastal Point , Delaware Online
 
BBLA SUPPORTS BUFFERS TO PROTECT WETLANDS AND WATERWAYS
 
 
Key message : The BBLA Board believes that taking a careful look at how best to protect and manage wetlands and buffers to wetlands and waterways is a critical aspect of any holistic strategy to address the inter-related environmental and social issues that challenge Sussex County, including Bethany Beach.
 
Recent Sussex County and Town of Bethany Beach Activity:
On May 14, 2020, the BBLA submitted a letter to the Coastal Point newspaper expressing support for the S ussex County Wetlands and Buffers Working G roup’s (WBWG) efforts to evaluate the use of buffers for wetlands and waterways, as described in their Summary Report published on September 10, 2019. In that letter, the BBLA also noted the League of Women Voters of Sussex County April 23 rd letter published in the Coastal Point (April 24, 2020) expressing support for the WBWG and their ongoing consideration of potential changes to the existing wetlands and buffer ordinance. 
 
What are buffers, and what do they do?  Buffers are located adjacent to and between wetlands and waterways and non-aquatic areas that may be developed or undeveloped, used for agriculture, transportation systems, business, industrial, or other purposes, to name a few.   Naturally vegetated buffers , in particular, perform important water quality functions such as trapping and filtering pollutants from roads, agricultural fields, business and industrial areas, and residential areas. Vegetated buffers protect shorelines, stream banks, channels, ponds, and wetlands from erosion, excessive sedimentation, storm surges, and nuisance flooding. At the same time, these areas provide food and habitat for numerous fish and wildlife species, and an environment for recreation, naturalists, hunters, and fishermen and fisherwomen. Vegetated buffers provide contiguous natural corridors for use by wildlife species that migrate across the landscape. Buffers help ameliorate the adverse effects of habitat fragmentation. 
 
Loss of natural buffers and need for action:  Pre-development (pre-1760), as much as 25% of Delaware was covered by wetlands, tidal and non-tidal, interspersed with beach, dunes, and uplands, creating a unique mosaic of habitat types, a preponderance of which were found in the coastal zone in and around communities like Bethany Beach. Nearly 60% of Delaware’s pre-development wetlands have been lost, and along with these losses, the State has lost a large percentage of natural buffer areas, typically referred to as riparian areas, resulting in water quality issues, loss of important habitat, and damage caused by erosion and sedimentation.  Click here for a very informative article on ecological buffers to learn more about their importance, and the problems that can arise when buffers are lost or degraded (about the Appalachians but general information, photos, and illustrations apply anywhere). In this article, The Nature Conservancy states: “ Ecological buffers are protected zones established around sensitive or critical areas, such as wildlife breeding or hibernation habitats, streams, and wetlands, to lessen the impacts of human activity and land disturbance .” The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) published, in 2008, a document directly applicable to Sussex County and Bethany Beach regarding State Resource Areas (see Section 2.1), the importance of these areas (see Section 2.2), and how to apply DNREC’s 8 Ecological Principles (see Section 1) during land use planning (see Section 3).
 
Are we doing enough to protect buffers? In an article published in the Cape Gazette on April 24, 2020, Ron Mac Arthur reports that “ after more than a year of meetings, a Sussex County Council-appointed wetland buffers committee still does not have an updated ordinance to present to county officials ”. Issues that require further research, analysis, and discussion include selective cutting in buffers, drainage management, providing incentives for retaining existing forests or replacing lost forests, access for stream maintenance activities (removal of blockages and debris), and buffer widths.  How to provide and enforce protection also is still up in the air. 
 
Moving from dialogue to consensus recommendations:  The BBLA is NOT taking a position on what the County and Committee are doing or recommending, but we do support the on-going dialogue and efforts to come up with consensus recommendations regarding buffers that can be considered when thinking about any changes to the “wetlands and buffer” ordinance.
 
Bethany Beach is a very special place, blessed with sun and sand, and also with critically important environmental resources in and around the community. It is the environmental values, in part, that attract people to live, work, and vacation in our community. The BBLA Board believes that efforts to look at ordinances and policies pertaining to buffers for wetlands and waterways, informed by experts and the public, can influence strategies designed to protect and restore the environmental and social values that make Sussex County and Bethany Beach unique. 
 
 
 


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