FENWICK ISLAND – Citing navigational and safety concerns, bayside residents in Fenwick Island last week called for the relocation of a proposed dock and pier on North Schulz Road.
Last Thursday, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section held a virtual public hearing on a permit application to construct and use a pier, dock and two boatlifts at 1306 N. Schulz Road in Fenwick.
The hearing – held at the request of the Fenwick Island Town Council – comes months after property owners James and Meredith Bruner submitted plans to DNREC to construct a 4-by-28-foot pier, a 6-by-35-foot dock and a boat lift to the north of their parcel.
During the public notice period, however, the agency received multiple comments from adjacent neighbors and nearby community members opposed to the application. To that end, the property owners agreed to minimize the project by reducing the pier’s length and bringing the dock closer to land.
“What we found in this case was that there were adequate water depths closer to shore,” Matthew Jones, DNREC environmental scientist, said last week. “So from the feedback provided by the public, as well as the department, the applicant actually redesigned and resubmitted the application.”
In last week’s hearing, James Bruner said he and his wife purchased the vacant lot in 2019 and began a feasibility study for the construction of a house and boat-docking facility, which would jut north into the Little Assawoman Bay.
“After the purchase, we began working on a plan for a dock and a pier with our marine contractor. Our initial application filed in March of 2020 proposed a much larger structure …,” he said. “During the DNREC review process, Mr. Jones helped us better understand the regulations and made recommendations that resulted in a dramatic downsize of the proposed dock and pier so that the environmental and navigational impacts could be minimized.”
Bruner told DNREC last week he and his wife had made substantial investments to have access to the bay.
“Understanding that most waterfront and lagoon lots in Fenwick Island have similar facilities for docking boats, I feel that our current request asks nothing more than the right for waterfront access that many of the landowners of the Fenwick Island community commonly enjoy,” he said.
Several community members, however, took the opportunity last week to share their concerns.
Resident Vicki Carmean argued the dock would project into a busy and narrow section of Little Assawoman Bay. She advocated for the dock and pier to be relocated to the west of the property.
“Over the years DNREC has not taken any responsibility to dredge this area so the channel is very limited and limitations are due to the silting and erosion of the existing property we are talking about,” she said. “It’s a very dangerous area to navigate and the existing property owners have a right to ask for a little bit more consideration.”
Neighboring property owner Steve Ross agreed with the suggestion to relocate the structure westward.
“Boaters are not particularly aware of where it’s deep and where it’s shallow …,” he said. “If it were on the west side it would reduce that concern and increase safety.”
Resident Melvin Wright noted the structure would only add to the navigational issues in the bay.
“This is a vacation area, and in the summertime the boats out there are tremendous as far as the number of boats coming and going back and forth …,” he said. “It’s a very, very busy corner.”
The public comment period for the application will remain open through Nov. 20, officials said.