Fenwick Council Bans Low-Speed Vehicles

FENWICK ISLAND – The approval of an ordinance to ban low-speed vehicles highlighted a meeting in Fenwick Island last week.

Following a public hearing last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to accept the second reading of several ordinance revisions relating to holiday construction hours, commercial height regulations, and screening and setback requirements for mechanical equipment in the commercial zone. The council also voted to prohibit low-speed vehicles (LSVs) on town streets, despite opposition from residents.

“Sadly, I feel Fenwick is not build for an increase in LSVs and golf cart traffic,” said Councilman Bill Rymer. “We are a small community, but we have a major highway running right down the middle of it … I think it’s going to get worse if we don’t deal with it now.”

The ordinance approved by council members last week prohibits low-speed vehicles with the exception of construction equipment, lawnmowers, emergency and town vehicles and assistive mobility devices. The code revision also has the support of Police Chief John Devlin and Town Manager Pat Schuchman, who argued LSVs posed safety risks, particularly along Bunting Avenue.

“There’s a lot of unknowns with this,” Schuchman said. “Yes, no one has been hurt yet. But that’s the big if.”

Several residents, however, came before the council last week to oppose the ban. Resident Charlie Hastings said he had heard of no complaints or accidents involving LSVs.

“It leads me to wonder why the council wants to prohibit the use of LSVs,” he said. “Sometimes it appears as if the council has it in for businesses.”

Spiro Buas, developer of the Fenwick Shores hotel, said an LSV ban was proposed after he had presented plans of operating a shuttle service to town officials.

“I mentioned it to town officials and to a few council people and I was told it would not be allowed because it was a shuttle,” he said. “I since did some research and produced a couple-page document that explains its use and that by Delaware law it is not a shuttle. But this election and this town council has decided to use the buzz word ‘shuttle’ to get us to where we are today.”

Spiro said he thought the idea of operating a shuttle would make it safer for guests traveling to and from resort establishments.

“What’s ironic to me is the exclusion of town vehicles,” he added. “You can’t have it, but we can. If it’s so scary to have a low-speed vehicle then don’t have it yourself.”

Resident Mark Tingle said officials wishing to avoid having low-speed vehicles on side streets could petition the state to allow them on Coastal Highway.

“I hear all the safety issues, but nowhere has anybody provided any documented evidence, submitted anything, to show these are actually safety hazards,” he said.

Council members, however, said they supported the LSV ban, as it aligned with the town’s comprehensive plan. They added that the vehicle could also risk the safety of pedestrians Bunting Avenue.

“I would have a difficult time living with myself if I put more vehicles – albeit smaller ones, albeit electrical ones, albeit green ones – onto a roadway I know the people of Fenwick have basically declared to be their Boardwalk,” said Councilwoman Natalie Magdeburger, chair of the town’s charter and ordinance committee. “And I think it would be contradictory to our 2017 comprehensive plan.”

Councilman Richard Benn agreed.

“It’s a safety issue and we can’t have potentially hundreds of these vehicles going up and down Bunting,” he said.

After further discussion, the council voted to approve the LSV ban.

The council this week also voted to include mechanical equipment mounted onto a commercial building as part of the building’s height.

“I vote in favor of this ordinance because it brings commercial into line with our current residential zoning requirements,” Benn said.

Several residents, however, said the revision could force commercial developments to place mechanical equipment on the ground. While his hotel has already been built, Buas said the ordinance would have forced him to place several units behind the building.

“There would’ve been 70 pieces of equipment in my backyard facing my two neighbors, three of which are tall, very loud and would run 24/7,” he said.

Residents also came before the town council last week to oppose an ordinance revision prohibiting commercial parking on residential property, except for home occupations and professional offices lawfully located on a lot in the residential zone.

“This ordinance puts vehicles on the streets, it doesn’t address the problem,” said Scott Mumford, who’s family owns Warren’s Station restaurant. “This ordinance, to me, will come down on what someone can and cannot do with their property, and it’s a bit of an overreach.”

Resident Bill Weistling agreed.

“Any one of us can have a friend or relative come in for the weekend, might have a kid working down here, and you aren’t going to let them park on their own property …?” he said. “Number two, how are you going to police this?”

After further discussion, Magdeburger agreed to table the proposed ordinance revision to review the language.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.