Selbyville cracks down on 'dance hall'

Selbyville Town Council Members were not encouraging to the manager of the Captain’s Table restaurant at their Nov. 7 council meeting, repeatedly stating the town’s ordinances do not allow him to operate the establishment as a “dance hall.”

The restaurant had, during the last year, begun to offer dancing geared toward the town’s Latino community during the nighttime hours. In addition to complaints about noise and unruly crowds in the parking lot late at night, the simple accommodation of moving the dining tables to create a dance floor created a problem, they said.

The restaurant was cited for a violation of the town’s ordinances recently, with a notation from Police Chief Scott Collins that the situation also put the restaurant in violation of its liquor license, which required a certain amount of table seating in comparison to bar seating.

Apparently unaware that that was the case, restaurant management apologized for the situation and inquired as to whether it would be possible to obtain a variance or ordinance change that would allow them to continue to hold the dances.

Council members didn’t hold out much hope there, indicating the long history of the ordinance barring “dance halls” and emphasizing that there had certainly been a reason behind it.

But they were free to apply for such a change, Mayor Clifton Murray allowed. From there, assuming such a change were granted, the restaurant would have to apply for a different type of liquor license to accommodate such operations.

Collins also noted the presence of security patrols of the parking lot, saying that alone indicated a situation that was out of control.

The managers bemoaned the lack of local entertainment options for the town’s burgeoning Latino community, noting that most of them were employed at physically difficult jobs with Mountaire’s poultry plant or as blue-collar laborers and needed a way to relax during their time off.

Council members were unable to provide other suggestions, merely allowing when asked that the town’s fire hall was available for rental as a catering hall, with no alcohol sales being conducted by the department itself.

Murray emphasized that the crackdown on the restaurant was in no way targeting the Latino community or anyone in particular — it was simply enforcement in a situation that violated town codes and was the source of safety concerns and residents’ complaints.

Council members’ comments took a stern tone with Mountaire representative Ron Witte, regarding a metal door recently repaired on the plant. Councilman G. Frank Smith III said he really wanted to have that door closed during the day, to reduce odors, feather flight and noise when the plant is operating.

Witte replied that Smith was welcome to come by the plant to see the door and discuss the issue but he refused to commit to keeping it down.

“Does that mean you’re not planning on closing it?” Smith asked pointedly, to Witte’s repeated non-committal invitation to discuss the issue at the plant.

Murray noted that he himself had spotted an odor problem at the plant during the previous week, and he provided photographs of a Mountaire loading area covered with feathers and chicken excrement by way of proof.

Witte appeared taken aback by the photos, saying, “It sure looks like someone dropped the ball, doesn’t it?”

On a positive note, Witte said a proposal for the new wastewater treatment system at the plant was heading upward in the corporate structure, working toward approval and, hopefully, eventual implementation. He said he would bring council members more information on the system once it was approved.

Witte also noted Mountaire’s annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, which he said feeds about 4,000 people.

Council members themselves unanimously approved (4-0, with Clarence Tingle absent) a $200 donation toward the March is Kids Art Month effort being spearheaded by Selbyville Community Club member Louise Creel. The inaugural event in 2005 included more than 300 local students participating and local businesses adding their own participation by hanging the artwork in their shops until Easter.

The $200 doubled the previous donation of the council and gets the 2006 event off to the kind of head start Creel said she was hoping to have in order to involve even more children.

“If the kids are painting, they’re not doing drugs or on the street,” Creel said in touting the impact of the event.

Donations toward the cause will be accepted in December and January, with an eye toward tax flexibility, she noted, also touting the event’s ability to bring families into the town library, where it was held.

Council Member Jay Murray, reporting for the police department, noted 172 complaints, 131 tickets and $4,400 in fines for the month of October, while Collins emphasized that the month had largely been a quiet one for police. A successful Halloween parade topped the list of events in which the department had participated.

Mayor Murray noted to Collins his concern about a lack of stop signs in the interior of the Food Lion/McDonald’s shopping center in the town, saying he felt there would be an accident as a result. Collins theorized one or more signs had not been replaced after an accident and town officials were to follow up on the matter.

Council Member Richard Duncan reported on the town’s water department, noting that Well A had been repaired, with a noisy pipe pulled and repacked with gravel to eliminate the equipment movement that had caused the problem.

And despite water concerns in several other neighboring towns, he noted the town’s water system continued to meet all federal and state standards.

Bids on the drilling of three new test wells had come in, Duncan said, with council unanimously approving the lower of the two — $46,936 from A.C. Schultz.

Smith reported success on EPA testing for the town’s wastewater system, though he again noted violations from the town’s industrial user — Mountaire. The council voted to fine the company $6,000 for six violations in October.

Engineer Chuck Hauser admitted he had been overly optimistic about information needed for bids on wastewater treatment plant work arriving in time for the November council meeting. Some of the information had been delayed, he said, but a final review of the bid package could mean it would go out in the next few days or weeks.

Council members also unanimously approved plans for the Vector Security building, on the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Mayor Murray, on the subject of condemnations, expressed his concerns about an old house on Route 54 at the edge of the town. The home, however, is not within town limits or control. The issue may be brought to attention of the county, though.

Town Manager Gary Taylor praised the annual Halloween parade, joining Collins in his appreciation of the turnout for the event. Meanwhile, planning for the town’s annual Christmas parade proceeds with the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, with vendors already being lined up.

Taylor said most of the town’s holiday lights were already up, including some areas not previously decorated.

He reminded council members that a home at 15 Main Street, at the intersection of Route 17 and 54, had been offered for town purchase at the price of $132,000, including removal of asbestos-laden shingles. Mayor Murray noted that the location was strategic, while Jay Murray said he felt the existing building was a safety hazard and that the property could be rehabilitated for the betterment of the town.

Council members voted unanimously to accept the home for the $132,000 asking price.

Finally, Taylor issued a reminder that the town’s railroad museum is open the first Saturday of every month, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., lamenting that a lack of publicity kept the public from visiting the town’s historical collection at the museum.