South Bethany Restates June Bug Policies; Statement Comes After Gansler Issue

OCEAN CITY — The ongoing flap over Maryland Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler stopping by an underage party in neighboring Delaware this summer prompted the town of South Bethany to issue a statement this week reiterating its stringent “June Bug” policies.
Last week it came to light Gansler visited a party in South Bethany to briefly meet his teenage son who had recently graduated from high school and was sharing a weekly rental with fellow graduates. Gansler is taking heat for stopping at the large party and turning a deaf ear and blind eye on the underage revelry going on around him. Critics claim Gansler, as the top prosecutor in Maryland, had at least a moral obligation to make an effort to halt the underage drinking if not a legal one.
The story had legs and was reported in most of the major media outlets on the other side of the Chesapeake. After coming under considerable fire, Gansler took responsibility for his actions, or in this case, inaction.
“I am not known to mince words,” he said. “For better or worse, I am not a smooth talking politician who scripts every word, but when I make a mistake, I own up to it.”
Gansler said his position as Maryland Attorney General notwithstanding, he faces the same challenges as other parents of teenagers.
“The fact is that as a parent of a 19-year-old, I face the same issues as many of you,” he said. “How do we get it right? How do we draw the balance between helping our college teenagers make good choices and when to pull them back? You always try to make the best decisions. In this case, maybe I should have done something differently.”
In the wake of the media attention garnered by the incident, the town of South Bethany this week issued an official statement reiterating its stringent polices regarding “June Bugs,” rentals to teens and criminal enforcement for offenders. As one of the “quiet resorts” in coastal Delaware, South Bethany certainly does not encourage or embrace the annual pilgrimage of recent high school grads to the beach for Senior Week, but because it is inevitable to some degree, the town has stringent policies in place for renters and property owners and realtors to curtail or contain the activities.
“In light of an event that occurred this summer in our town — an event which has garnered a lot of recent media attention — the town of South Bethany would like to remind all of our residents and visitors that the town has procedures in place specifically dealing with June activities,” the statement reads.
According to the release, the process begins in February when a letter is sent out to all South Bethany property owners with a contract to be signed declaring their property as a rental property. The letter reminds owners that behavior such as underage drinking, the use or possession of drugs, excessive noise and any disorderly conduct will not be tolerated.
Throughout the spring, South Bethany Police meet with each real estate agency to ensure a form has been filled out listing arrival and departure dates and the names of the individuals renting or staying at the properties. Finally, once June arrives, South Bethany Police patrol areas with known young renters with more frequency. Despite the town’s best efforts, there are still incidents reported largely because adult renters have found ways to get around the system.
“However, although this process is in place, many of the incidents that occur are the result of poor or absent supervision by parents,” the statement reads. “Parents often rent the homes and then disappear from the scene, leaving teenagers to fend for themselves. Many parents allow underage drinking inside the homes, believing this is acceptable as long as the teenagers do not drive.”
The town’s June Bug policies have achieved the desired results to a large degree. Last year, for example, there were just eight complaints related to underage renters. By comparison, in 2009 when the policies were implemented, there were 30 complaints.
“The diminished number of complaints and reports indicates we are on the right track, but any occurrences that disturb neighboring homeowners and rental families are unacceptable,” the statement reads. “The town has and will continue to strictly enforce the town code relative to peace and good order.”
While it is difficult to compare South Bethany’s policies toward June Bugs to those of Ocean City because of the size of the resorts and the sheer numbers of recent high school grads flooding Ocean City each June, it is interesting to compare the general attitudes toward Senior Week. While South Bethany discourages recent high school graduates from upsetting the “peaceful tranquility of the quiet resort,” Ocean City embraces the June Bugs as a staple of the early summer season and many real estate renters target the grads in June.
Ocean City has its own stringent policies about underage drinking and drug use, excessive noise and otherwise disruptive behavior, but the resort encourages the graduates to come and further encourages them to take advantage of all of the safe and fun activities provided through its Play it Safe program. In a letter to recent graduates included in the Play it Safe program packet, Mayor Rick Meehan reflects Ocean City’s attitude about June Bugs.
“You have passed a major milestone with your recent graduation from high school and now it is time to relax and have some fun, and where better to do that than right here in Ocean City, Maryland,” the letter reads. “Now it is your turn to experience that new-found sense of freedom and all of the fun and excitement of Ocean City. It is a time to reminisce with your friends and to begin to talk about the future as you experience days on the beach and nights out on the Boardwalk.”