Fenwick adopts sustainability plan for town’s future

When planning for the future, not everything has to be about growth. In adopting the new Fenwick Island Community Sustainability Plan, the town council is planning for the continued health and vibrancy of Fenwick Island.

According to DNREC, “A community sustainability plan is a road-map for making a community a socially fair, economically strong and environmentally healthy place to live, work, and play.”

The ultimate goal is to bring balance to environmental sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability for quality of life for future generations.

“It was the extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 that led the Town to make resiliency planning a priority,” for all natural hazards, the plan states. But they also considered the residents, the traffic, green infrastructure, nuisance flooding and other aspects of town life.

It differs from the 10-Year Comprehensive Plan, which more focuses on land use.

The Environmental Committee drafted the plan with public input, town staff and the project consultants. It was approved by the town council in October and has been submitted to the State for comments before final adoption.

To perform this project, planners from KCI Technologies won a $40,000 Sustainable Communities Planning grant from DNREC’s Division of Climate, Coastal & Energy (with a required Town contribution of $12,000).

“Fenwick Island strives to be a leader in sustainability,” the plan states. “To do so, the Town has developed an implementation plan with action items that will help it achieve a vibrant local economy, a healthy community, and a protected environment, and will in turn encourage local residents to live more sustainably as well.”

Much of the document is the current state of affairs: a brief town history, current population and demographics, future housing stock, traffic, parks, sidewalks, public works and more.

Located between beautiful beaches and calm inland bays, the town’s actual area is about one-third of a square mile, bisected by one of Delaware’s primary north-south highways, the document states.

“The same resources that draw people to Fenwick Island face enormous pressure and the threat of destruction from human and natural forces,” especially development activity, the plan states.

“Currently, less than one percent of the Town’s land surface is covered by tree canopy,” the plan continues, besides damage to natural inlets, riparian areas, natural beaches and native vegetation.

But, where possible, the residents protect their habitat, with the town Environmental Committee, the South Schultz Wetland Association and the Glenn Avenue Bird Sanctuary.

The document digs into human waste, manufacturing waste, household energy efficiency and Fenwick’s particular vulnerability to sea-level rise and storm surge.

Town initiatives include Earth Day clean-up, beach accessibility, smoke-free parks, stormwater improvements, its Tree City USA designation and tree triage for pine wilt disease. State and federal initiatives range from beach replenishment to the federal Clean Air Act to the state’s Source Water Protection program.

Of more than 60 pages (not including maps and appendices), about six pages are actual goals, strategies and implementation.

As a major concern, they want to improve flooding and drainage issues that are becoming a chronic problem during lesser storms and high tides. They need to study the issue and develop a plan during times restricted access due to flooding. That might include different infrastructure, an inventory of existing infrastructure, zoning or building code updates and public education.

For emergency planning, they want to improve preparedness, notifications and evacuations. In some cases, this means partnering with Ocean City, Md., or Sussex County governments for better communications.

They called for a risk and vulnerability assessment to “determine and prioritize the precautionary measures that can make a community more disaster‐resistant.”

Other goals relate to protecting their environment, clean energy, clean water and green infrastructure.

They also wish to improve transportation issues, to provide safe access for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, including electric vehicle charging stations and increased DART public transit.

In education and volunteerism, they hope to continue welcoming and recruiting volunteers for local initiatives and learning from the experts who already partner with the town.

The document calls for a lot of research, action and public outreach.

“Some items may not be accomplished immediately and will take years to achieve, but all items are strategic and will be pursued as soon as possible,” the plan concludes. “Any member of the community is encouraged to create their own action items to pursue sustainability in their own lives and further the town’s goals.

In other Fenwick Island Town Council news:

• Parking violations dramatically dropped this summer, mostly because many visitors have an easier time buying their parking permits on the new mobile app than at the physical kiosk.

• “If anybody’s leaving town over the holidays or for the winter, please send us an email or drop us a line … so we can keep an eye on [your house],” said Police Chief Bill Boyden.

• The 20th annual Fenwick Freeze is coming on New Year’s Day 2020. The Thanksgiving Turkey Trot has moved to Bethany Beach.

• A state permit request to construct a new marina outside of town limits was withdrawn. Town officials had feared that some of the proposed boat slips could block public boat traffic on the Little Assawoman Bay.

• Chairpersons were appointed for all town committees, with terms beginning Nov. 1: Ad hoc Commercial District Planning, Richard Mais; Audit, Gardner Bunting; Beach, Becca McWilliams; Budget, Gardner Bunting; Building, Jesse Shepherd; Business Development, Tim Collins; Charter and Ordinance, Bill Weistling; Dredging: Bernie Merritt; Emergency Management and Infrastructure, Gardner Bunting; Environmental, Mary Ellen Langan; Finance, Richard Mais; Pedestrian Safety, Vicki Carmean; and Technology, Gene Langan. Also, Tim Collins leads the Board of Adjustment; Winnie Lewis leads the Planning Commission; and the Board of Elections will be appointed during election season.

• About eight properties’ owners owe property taxes to the Town, totaling $12,000.

There will be no November council meeting, so the next Fenwick Island Town Council meeting will be Friday, Dec. 6, at 3:30 p.m.


By Laura Walter
Staff Reporter