FENWICK ISLAND – Controversy surrounding a proposed shuttle service highlighted a recent meeting of the Fenwick Island Town Council.
In a council meeting late last month, Councilman Bill Weistling went on the record to address an organization’s statements pertaining to a proposed shuttle service in Fenwick Island.
“It’s a little concerning, we had an open meeting and discussed it,” he said. “Anybody can contact any of the town committee members of Charter and Ordinance to verify the truth.”
In April, the Fenwick Island Charter and Ordinance Committee (C&O) held a meeting on a proposed ordinance amendment prohibiting shuttle services and low-speed vehicles on town streets and roadways. While the town code prohibits shuttle bus services, the committee was asked to review the ordinance and suggest changes that clarified the definition and use of a shuttle service after the town was approached by a business looking to operate a shuttle service in Fenwick Island.
“After reviewing what we reviewed, we do not think Fenwick Island is a suitable place for that type of service,” Town Manager Terry Tieman said at the time.
Following a lengthy discussion, the committee ultimately voted to table the ordinance amendment until the town’s attorney could address members’ questions and concerns. But Weistling told the town last month he had since been contacted by property owners who had received a newsletter from the Fenwick Island Society of Homeowners (FISH). He said references to a “booze bus” operating in Fenwick were untrue.
“C&O never discussed or considered a booze bus. There was no proposal for a booze bus,” he said. “I now see signs in town stating, ‘No Booze Bus.’”
Weistling noted an existing shuttle service has operated in Fenwick Island for years. But he noted the police hadn’t received any complaints or violations for drunken behavior.
“I don’t know where this information came from,” he said. “We did not discuss a booze bus whatsoever. I’m sure some residents and property owners and members of FISH that contacted me do not like to be lumped into that category of being on a drunk bus and who have used the service for many years with their elderly family members.”
Councilman Bernie Merritt attributed the reports to FISH’s leadership.
“The problem is they are now using it as a platform to beat up the council and the committee process and the town. It’s out of control and the leadership has enflamed rhetoric all the time …,” he said. “I ask the members of FISH stand up and make the leadership accountable and make them tell the truth and the facts.”
Councilman Mike Houser, a FISH member, said he had also taken calls from property owners regarding the issue.
“There is a small coterie of individuals that have voiced their opposition and distain for what the town’s doing …,” he said. “Every code, every ordinance, every process has always been followed implicitly. And most particularly public input and participation guidelines have been followed by the letter, without exception … I don’t know how these misrepresentations are started in the town, but it’s wrong.”
During public comments, several residents shared their displeasure with the council’s comments regarding FISH and its leadership. Resident Jacque Napolitano said she was upset the council did not give the organization’s newsletter editor, Amy Kyle, a chance to respond.
“To personally attack a resident and committee representation of FISH the way you have, I’m just astounded and appalled,” she said.
Resident Janice Bortner said she was concerned about the impacts a proposed shuttle service would have on Fenwick.
“Has any of the council members or committee members had conversations with any of the developing companies about providing shuttle services into Fenwick?” she asked. “Have you required environmental impact studies from these developers? What about traffic studies and the impact on congestion on Route 54 and Coastal Highway?”
Mayor Gene Langan replied he hadn’t heard of a shuttle service bringing in people from outside Fenwick Island.
“That’s a new one to me,” he said.