Selbyville passes alcohol sales, restaurant guidelines

Selbyville restaurateurs will be reexamining the way they serve alcohol. The Town Council voted unanimously April 2 to pass a Zoning Code amendment, Chapter 200, which serves several purposes: to define bar, restaurant, nightclub and cocktail lounge; to limit the hours each day during which alcoholic beverages may be sold; to prohibit stand-up consumption of alcoholic beverages; to create a licensing process for restaurants; to allow existing restaurants an exception for noncompliance; and provide for the enforcement of these rules.

Selbyville is aiming to reduce crime and improve safety through the regulation of restaurants and the sale of alcohol.

Many towns have codes and regulations to define the restaurant industry, said Robert Dickerson, town administrator, at the public hearing on the issue on Dec. 5, 2012. Selbyville is catching up and preparing for entrepreneurs who may want to open businesses in the future, he said.

The proposal began a few years ago after the mayor and council took notice that late-night alcohol sales at bars tend to attract patrons who “congregate and display illegal and offensive conduct, including, but not limited to, fighting and committing acts of violence,” notes the proposed code amendment. The police department must dedicate extra time and manpower to these situations, they said.

Recent violent incidents at local establishments, such as a stabbing March 17 at Pomeroy’s Liquors & Tavern, spurred the council to finish drafting the bill after public input at a prior meeting had led them to consider the issue further.

“There was quite a bit of discussion of pros and cons, and we’ve had incidents since then,” said Councilman Clarence “Bud” Tingle Jr.

“We’ve had problems throughout the year, not just the one place,” noted Councilman Jay Murray.

Therefore, the Town is seeking to classify restaurants, define restaurants’ use of alcohol and prohibit the stand-up consumption of alcohol.

Alcoholic beverages could not be sold between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. within corporate limits of Selbyville by holders of the Delaware Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. On-site consumption of alcohol would be prohibited between midnight and 9 a.m.

Officially, the businesses would primarily serve food, as restaurants, with supplemental alcohol sales. Their primary purpose may not be alcohol. Stand-up consumption of alcoholic beverages would not be allowed unless someone was waiting for a table.

A bar would be any indoor area open to the public that is primarily for the sale of alcoholic beverages, where food service is secondary. Bars include taverns, taprooms, lounges, cabarets, nightclubs and so forth. Bars and nightclubs are not permitted in Selbyville town limits.

Businesses would also need to apply for a town business license.

Existing businesses may not be heavily affected, because many already close before the regulation hours, the council said. Also, they could register for “nonconforming status.”

Under such a grandfathering arrangement, the Town would keep a scaled floor plan of the restaurant on file at Town Hall, showing the designated zones for seated dining and stand-up consumption of alcohol. The floor plan may be modified in the future, without impacting the grandfathered status of the business, if the percentage and total area of patron stand-up alcohol consumption is not increased.

Penalties for non-compliance with these proposed rules could result in loss of business license and a $1,000 fine.

Citizens and restaurant owners had discussed the proposed amendment at a public hearing Dec. 5, 2011. Yet people still shared concerns at the April meeting.

Citizen Lu Creel asked if the amendment will impact the current issues, and Councilman Frank Smith III responded that it’s a step in the right direction.

“This puts a definition on things so you can say, ‘This is what you’re doing right. This is what’s wrong,’” said Mayor Clifton Murray. “It gives us a starting point.”

It may also relieve some police burden as first-responders to bar disputes. Selbyville police have also needed to request backup from other municipal police and Delaware State Police to deal with programs in the past.

“I don’t think there’s any intent to … hurt anyone’s business,” said the mayor. “In fact, it’s here to encourage business and give the town a good, fair name that it deserves.”

The entire proposed amendment for the Zoning Code Chapter 200 can be obtained from Town Hall at 68 West Church Street, or by calling (302) 436-8314.

In other Selbyville news:

• The council unanimously approved a new budget of $3.151 million for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2013. Dickerson said that is less than a 1 percent difference from last year’s expenses of $3.144 million.

Under the budget, the base water and sewer rates will both increase by 75 cents per month.

There is no increase in property tax rates, which were determined at February’s town council meeting to be $1.85 per $100.

Dickerson noted that the town had to use $260,000 of reserve funds for capital improvements to the water and sewer systems. Also, transfer taxes are down because of the slow housing market.

• Town-wide flushing of water pipes will begin the week of Monday, April 16. The town is also making a map of all municipal hydrants, and collecting model and location data for improved maintenance.

• The bidding process should begin in early April for building Selbyville’s two new wells. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2012, if there are no major delays. The council emphasized that town water is safe to drink, as it has been in compliance with all recent tests.

• The council unanimously approved a lease agreement with the Maryland & Delaware Railroad Company. The lease allows the Town to lay water pipes under the tracks, which are the property of the railroad. The lease costs $1,530 annually and mirrors seven similar agreements the Town already has for other transmission lines.

• Selbyville and Chesapeake Utilities continue work on a franchise agreement that will bring natural gas to town. The company originally hoped to connect to Mountaire by early May. The Town Council has also expressed an interest in bring natural gas to other users.

In the next week, the Town and company will discuss permits, sharing of information, location and installation of pipes, possible legal issues, engineering reimbursements, economic data and more.

“We’re getting the wording right,” explained Dickinson of the delay. “We’ve got one chance to get the wording right for 15 years.”

• Some wastewater issues may be dissipating. For months, the council discussed a scum layer forming on the water at the Church Street pump station, believed to be the result of Mountaire’s pretreatment of wastewater. The Town has ordered, but not yet installed, a machine that would break up the sludge, although it was considered a temporary solution. However, the poultry processing plant has since adjusted the polymer treatment, and the scum blanket has recently dissipated before it reaches the town pump station and water treatment plant.

• In the month of February, the Selbyville Police Department received 203 calls for service, issued 123 tickets and made 23 arrests. Police Chief W. Scott Collins said all six police officers are working regularly now, which improves coverage.

Collins also reported that forensic evidence was recently processed and returned, clearing up several Christmastime burglaries on Dukes and Hosier streets. The fingerprints led to a positive identification of a suspect, and Collins thanked Delaware State Police for their cooperation in the cases.

Recent police action has included a near-fatal automobile collision on Route 113 near the Mason-Dixon Shopping Center; three minors with drug offences; attempted theft of a boat; and the parking-lot stabbing.

The department also completed a funding agreement with Indian River School District regarding the position of school resource officer.

• Old Timer’s Day is scheduled for Saturday, June 16, and people have already begun registering automobiles for the car show, said Dickerson.

• Because the Town now has a building inspector who can inspect residential and commercial properties, Dickerson said he will advise the Sussex County Building Code Department that they no longer need to do inspections within town limits. He said the fire marshal will continue to inspect homes, as well.

• The next Selbyville Town Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 1, at 7 p.m.