Rosemary Hardiman      

  Bethany Beach Town Council

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Health and Safety Measures In the COVID-19 Crisis

Our primary governmental responsibility is to protect public health and safety. Since March 2020, the Council’s main focus has been on preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus in our community, in accordance with Governor Carney’s emergency orders and medical advice and guidance.

Those orders, which have the force and effect of law in Delaware, include requirements for individuals to maintain social/physical distancing of at least 6-feet from others and wear face coverings in public settings. They also include limitations on the size of public gatherings, guidance for beach communities to limit crowding on beaches and a requirement for individuals to wear face coverings on boardwalks.

In compliance, the Council approved an action plan that included:
Cancellation of events that attracted large crowds, including the 4th of July parade and fireworks, bandstand entertainment events and movies and bonfires on the beach;

  • Decisions not to operate the Town trolleys and not to issue parking permits for out-of-town shuttle buses and vans;
  • Limiting use of parking in beach front parking lots to Residential Parking permit holders from 10 am to 4 pm.

  • Because of some confusion and practical problems in enforcement of the Governor’s various face covering orders (under the Delaware Criminal Code), the Council issued an ordinance clearly requiring individuals to wear face coverings on the boardwalk, boardwalk plaza, dune crossovers to the beach and the downtown commercial area. Violators are subject to civil fines under the Town Code.

    All these and other measures have been implemented to protect the health and safety of everyone in our community, including residents (especially the most vulnerable), all property owners, business owners and their employees, visitors and certainly not least of all, our Town staff. The Council and staff will continue to monitor conditions and to take action as deemed appropriate for that purpose. Two other facts to consider concern businesses and vulnerable individuals.

    Businesses. The Governor has not yet permitted businesses to fully reopen. We are still in “Phase 2” of the Governor’s reopening plan. Consequently, businesses are still subject to a number of State limitations and requirements in their operations.

    Vulnerable Individuals. Three of the Governor’s orders strongly advise vulnerable individuals who are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to continue to “shelter-in-place.” One of those orders also advised them “to avoid beaches and boardwalks.” The term “vulnerable individuals” has been defined as those who are over 65 or have underlying health conditions.


    Helping Businesses During the COVID-19 Crisis

    The Council and Town staff have and will continue to assist businesses, a vital part of our community, during this crisis, consistent with health and safety considerations. As Council liaisons with the businesses, Council Member Bruce Frye and I have discussed issues and suggestions concerning business activity with the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce as well as with individual businesses. The Council has adopted a number of assistance recommendations, mainly related to parking arrangements. For example, the Town has:

    • Delayed the start of pay-to-park from May 15 to June 1;
    • Converted 60 prime pay-to-park spaces in the downtown commercial district to free 15-minute parking to facilitate take-out/pick-up orders from businesses;
    • Changed other unlimited pay-to-park spaces on Garfield Parkway and throughout the downtown district to two-hour parking to encourage people to visit businesses, rather than use those spaces all day to go to the beach;
    • Provided free business parking permits for business employees.
    • Implemented free parking throughout Town after 4 pm on Tuesdays in August.

    Credit must be given to the Town Manager and Public Works and Parking Enforcement staff for the prompt implementation of these and other parking decisions.


    Flood Prevention and Mitigation and Environmental Protection Measures

    Flooding is a problem that is high on the list of concerns and Town efforts to prevent or limit the problem to the extent possible. In those efforts, we have to start with consideration of the reality of our situation.


    Most of Bethany Beach is at or below sea level. (For an idea of land elevation compared to sea level throughout Town go to: In addition, we are bordered on three sides by water: the ocean and two tidal canals, the Loop and Assawoman Canals. About ¾ of the Town drains into the Loop Canal and the rest drains into the Assawoman.

    A 2015 Army Corps of Engineers study describes the topography in and around Bethany as “bowl-like” which retains floodwater for prolonged periods of time under certain conditions (high tide, storm surge and heavy rainfall.) Visible on property and streets north of Route 26 and Garfield Pkwy, the water simply has no place to go until repeated low tides allow drainage to occur. Bethany experiences more intense, frequent, and long-lasting flooding than any of the neighboring communities. (See Pennsylvania Avenue, Town of Bethany Beach, Delaware Flood Risk Management Continuing Authorities Program Section Feasibility Study, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, September 2015, p. 17)

    Following is a summary of five actions taken by the Council and Town staff to protect the Town and environment.

    1. Beach replenishment efforts.

    Maintaining the design width of the beach and the height of the dune is essential as a barrier to protect the Town from flooding in coastal storms. See separate report below for details regarding the Town’s successful efforts and future plans.

    2. Continued efforts to secure federal and state approval for construction of a bladder dam and flood gates in the canal system to reduce tidal flooding.

    The Loop Canal, which regularly overflows in tidal and heavy rain events, presents a significant challenge in preventing and reducing flooding.

    The Town’s Public Works Department staff has worked diligently to keep swales clear of debris and replace damaged drainage pipes. However, the solution to most tidal flooding lies outside the Town’s boundaries.

    The Council has approved ongoing efforts by the Town Manager to determine the feasibility of constructing a bladder dam at the junction of the Assawoman and Loop Canals and flood gates at the Fred Hudson Ditch. To gather necessary data, the Town installed tidal gauges at key locations and then provided the information for engineering review and analysis. Engineers recently advised the Town that a bladder dam at the mouth of the Loop Canal and tidal gates at the north end of the Salt Pond would alleviate the majority of tidal flooding in Bethany Beach. Those findings and the report will be presented for Council consideration and public commentand a presentation posted on the Town’s website in the near future. Following Council approval, we would plan to vigorously pursue federal and state approval and funding for the construction.

    3. Acquisition and preservation of wetlands and undeveloped property.

    The Council approved the purchase of an additional 12.5 acres of undeveloped property and wetlands (the “Walcek property”) for preservation. (See attached Letter from Charis Bason, Executive Director, Delaware Center for Inland Bays describing the significance of the Town’s purchase.) With acquisition of this property, in addition to the previous purchase of 26 acres for the Nature Center and 5.86 acres for the for the Town park, about 7% of the total acreage in Town has been preserved as open space. (See number 5 below for effect of “open space” on flood insurance premiums.) The Council also approved work to stabilize the bank of the south side of the Loop Canal to prevent further erosion.

    Those and other actions have also had beneficial effects for our Town, including mitigation of flooding and protection of ecological habitat.

    4. Use of permeable/pervious materials in some construction.

    South Atlantic Avenue was paved with pervious material that reduces storm water runoff. However, this is not a practical solution for roadway construction in most of the Town. Construction requires the surface to be at least two feet above the seasonal high-water table. Therefore, permeable surface roadways would not be possible in areas at or below sea level, such as north of Route 26 and Garfield Parkway. (For an idea of land elevation compared to sea level throughout Town go to:

    Despite those practical limitations, there are other possible uses of pervious materials by the Town as well as by homeowners that would capture or treat stormwater runoff that warrant consideration. A technical report prepared for the Association of Coastal Towns, which includes Bethany Beach, listed a number of possibilities, as well as landscaping and conservation suggestions. This is a matter that the Planning and Zoning Commission is reviewing further and will make recommendations to Council. (For a copy of the Coastal Municipalities Impervious Surface Coverage Report, including ideas regarding best practices for homeowners as well as municipalities, go to:

    5. Participation in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Program and Rating System.

    The Town participates in FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Community Rating System (CRS). The CRSis a voluntary, incentive-based community program that recognizes, encourages, and rewards local floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum standards of the NFIP.Only 5% of communities that participate in the NFIP also participate in the CRS. Approximately 86% of our Town is in a Special Flood Hazard Area, which is an increase of 20% from the previous maps. Because the Town has implemented measures aimed at reducing property damage in storms, FEMA flood insurance is available to Bethany Beach homeowners at a 10% lower rate than normally charged in in Special Flood Hazard Areas. These measures include the amount of open space in Town; mapping of beach erosion and gauges in the Loop Canal; and ourfloodplain construction regulations.


    Beach Replenishment

    Bethany Beach and South Bethany beaches are scheduled for replenishment (“nourishment”) by the Army Corps of Engineers in the Fall. The project is part of the Corps’ long-term Flood and Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Program to provide replacement sand for widening the beach to design standards, as well as dune repair.

    Beach replenishment has been and continues to be one of the highest priorities for the Council because of the vital importance of the beach and dune as a buffer to protect lives, Town infrastructure, homes and business property and the economy in the event of a major storm. It is especially important because Delaware is the lowest lying state in the U.S. and most of Bethany Beach is at or below sea level. Complicating factors for consideration are annual beach erosion and gradual sea level rise.

    Under the Corps’ schedule, Bethany Beach is on a 3-year cycle for replenishment. However, implementation is dependent upon funding each time. Funding for the periodic projects typically has been split between the federal government and Delaware on a 65% (federal), 35% (state) basis. Federal funding for the projects requires Congressional appropriations. The State portion is paid for, in part, by a portion of the accommodation tax, allocated by statute for replenishment. Continued funding has become a matter of growing concern because of other competing needs and demands. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has expressed interest in shifting more responsibility for payment of the State share of the costs to county and/or local municipalities.

    The funding issue has been and will continue to be a priority matter for the Council and the Association of Coastal Towns (ACT). Through our partnership with the ACT municipalities and our well-established relationships with federal, state and county representatives and key staff, we continue to advocate for a solution that ensures that the interests of coastal communities are protected. Through our membership on the Delaware League of Local Governments (DLLG) Legislative Advisory Committee, Mayor Killmer, who is also President of DLLG, and I are able to educate our colleagues in non-coastal municipalities regarding these funding issues, as well as to influence any legislative proposal that would alter the current beach replenishment funding arrangement.Council Member Bruce Frye represents the Town in the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA). We are actively involved in the Center for the Inland Bays and the Delaware Resilient and Sustainable Communities League. Council members, including Faith Denault, Bruce Frye, Lew Killmer and I have represented the interests of Bethany Beach in the Sussex County Association of Towns, as well as with our county, state and federal representatives. These established relationships and advocacy efforts will be even more important in future funding decisions.

    In addition to those efforts, the Council has also continued to build the Town’s Storm Emergency Relief Fund, which was established to pay the local share of infrastructure repair and replacement costs in the event of a major destructive storm. At the end of FY 2021, the Fund is expected to have approximately $2 million reserved for that purpose.

    For More Information on Beach Nourishment in general and the Bethany Beach-South Bethany Project in particular, see the following:

    How Beach Nourishment Projects Work, ASBPA,

    USACE FACTSHEET RE: Bethany Beach/South Bethany Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project Published March 6, 2020


    Pedestrian and Bike Safety Measures.

    This issue has been high on the list of priorities for the Council and Town Manager. In a major development, we were successful in obtaining approval from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) for improved lighting on Route 1. DelDOT has installed some 30 twin-arm overhead light poles in the median from Fifth Street to Ashwood Street and a pedestrian-activated flashing signal at Wellington Parkway and Route 1. In response to our other requests, DelDOT has tentatively approved additional flashing pedestrian crossing signals at other busy Route 1 intersections (Ocean View Parkway, Central Boulevard and Ashwood Street) before next summer.

    Other pedestrian and bike safety measures include Council approval of pedestrian and bike pathways in the South Atlantic/Cedarwood streetscape project. Similar measures planned for Collins Street and Kent Avenue have had to be postponed due to design considerations as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.


    Maintaining Our Town’s Sound Financial Condition

    Fortunately, because of the Council’s support for the Town’s sound fiscal policies, and careful planning and management of expenditures, the Town is in excellent financial condition, as verified by independent audits. As a result, the Town has been able to operate efficiently without large increases in taxes, or borrowing, other than for the water tower. Because of sound fiscal management the Town will be paying off that loan 10 years early, in FY 2026. And having built healthy reserves, the Town isbetter able than others to meet the unexpected operational needs in the COVID-19 crisis period despite a significant reduction in revenue. Major credit for this accomplishment must go first to our Town Manager and Finance Director and extend to the Treasurer and members of the Budget and Finance Committee.


    Development of Health and Safety and Protective

    As Chair of the Charter and Ordinance Review Committee, I have been privileged to work with a dedicated group of volunteers with diverse professional backgrounds in developing or participating in a number of significant ordinances for Council review over the past two years. This included ordinances to:

    • Prohibit unsafe lot clearing practices (amended various provisions of Chapter 440 of the Town Code);
    • Require 14-days advance written notice of pile driving activity to adjacent homeowners within 200 feet of the activity (see Section 395-24 of the Code);
    • Increase fines for failure to clean up dog waste, as required by Chapter 240 of the Town Code, to $100 for a first offense and $200 for any subsequent offense in a 12-month period;
    • Strictly limit access to and activity on the protective dune on the beach to authorized personnel only (see Section 223-9 of the Code).

    Any credit for development of the ordinances must also include the Town Building Inspector and Code Enforcement Officer (Assistant Town Manager).


    Maintaining Clean and Safe Drinking Water Supply

    This is not an issue that receives regular public attention, but it is vitally important to public health and safety. It is the focus of regular Council attention in Town Manager reports. The Council approved the purchase of a more efficient aeration system to ensure continued high-quality water. The Town’s water supply consistently surpasses all EPA and state water quality standards and guidelines.

    Also noteworthy is the Town’s Saltwater Intrusion Monitoring Program. This program provides real time monitoring of the Town’s wells(at Parkwood Street, Town Hall, the well field across the street from Town Hall and at the Water Plant). This data is also submitted to DNREC and serves as an early warning system of potential salt water intrusion for the entire Delaware coast. Our program has become the “gold standard” for the State of Delaware. Because of that, DNREC invited representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to tour our plant and view the project first hand last year. The Town’s Water Department staff deserve major credit for these achievements.


    Progress in Development of Central Park

    Significant progress has been made in development of the Town park, located between Route 26 and Central Boulevard and now named “Central Park.” From all appearances, it is being actively used and enjoyed by the pubic, fulfilling the vision of several Councils and a large majority of Bethany Beach citizens since 2003. Following is a brief history of the park and how it was developed based on citizen input and preferences.

    2003 to 2012

    The 5.86-acre property, bordered by Route 1, Route 26, Gibson Avenue and Central Boulevard, was purchased by the Town in two separate transactions: the eastern portion from the Christian Church in 2003 and the western portion from the Neff family in 2004. Restrictive covenants in the sale contract for the Neff portion of the property prohibited its use for any “private or commercial use” and essentially provided that it could only be used for public or governmental purposes.

    In 2005, the Council at the time considered several possible uses and determined that the property should be developed eventually as a public park. The Council also determined that a number of possible uses were “unacceptable,” including a parking lot; parking garage; any building requiring HVAC; softball and soccer fields; basketball, tennis and volleyball courts; and skateboard park.

    Between 2008 and 2012 with the national economic downturn, the Town did not initiate any capital projects that were not already in the works. Except for some clearing and cleaning to prevent it from becoming a breeding ground for mosquitos and overrun with invasive plants, the park remained largely untouched.

    2012 to 2019

    In 2012, Council approved a plan to remove overgrown bush, poison ivy, invasive plant species and some trees, as recommended by an arborist; maintain an area to serve as part of a stormwater management system; and otherwise improve the appearance and condition of the property.

    Later that year, in an October 2012 public workshop, the Council reviewed and later approved a multi-step plan developed by the Town Manager for the creation and approval of a park design and features. The plan provided for: professionally prepared opinion surveysto be sent to all property owners; public meetings to review responses and findings; determination of what features should be included in a design; selection of a landscape architect to develop design concepts based on survey results and Council determination; review of design concepts in public meetings and revisions until a final decision by the Council.

    In 2013, the Bethany Beach Landowners Association (BBLA) conducted a survey of its members regarding use of the property. The results were interesting. A significant majority of respondents:

    • Agreed that a community park was the best use of the property;
    • Agreed with the inclusion of walking paths, gardens, benches and an open pavilion;
    • Agreed with the Council’s 2005 determination regarding “unacceptable uses.”

    Guided by the development plan, the Council:
    • Selected the Oasis Design Group to create concepts for the park based on input from the Council and property owners;
    • Conducted two surveys (2014 and 2016) in which a total of over 1500 property owners responded;
    • Conducted multiple public meetings to review survey results, design concepts and features for possible inclusion in the park and posted design concepts on the Town website for review.

    Based on the extensive public input and other considerations, the Council made a final determination in the process. While all this was going on, the property was maintained as an attractive, open-space green area.

    2019 to the Present

    Landscaping and other work began in 2019 and is now mostly complete. The design and virtually all of the features are based on the preferences expressed by a majority of Bethany Beach property owners. That includes everything from the main entrance to the park and sign on Route 1, to the walking paths, benches, gardens, open lawn areas and the pavilion.

    One exception is that two areas are designated as Storm Water Management Facilitiesby the Sussex Conservancy District. Those areas are now set aside as gardens with a special irrigation system.

    Now, after all the time, creative effort and hard work involved, it’s time to enjoy our beautiful Central Park.


    Resolving Individual Concerns and Issues

    For me, this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of serving on the Council, because of the opportunity to learn about and address the day-to-day problems and concerns that residents, property owners and businesses experience and observe. Interaction with individuals has developed greater understanding of issues and even friendships, and the conversations have provided a number of practical suggestions and led to solutions and improvements. Credit for successful outcomes must go to the Town Manager and staff, and when necessary, to the full Council. This problem-solving activity reinforces my conviction that we’re all working together for what’s best for Bethany Beach.