Fenwick Committee Talks Term Limits, Marijuana Sales

FENWICK ISLAND – Term limits for council members, the sale of recreational marijuana and the development of a Businesses Helping Businesses parking initiative are just some of the issues a resort committee hopes to address in the coming months.

Last Thursday, the Fenwick Island Charter and Ordinance Committee convened to discuss several issues referred to the committee for consideration.

In addition to a proposed ordinance amendment that would establish fees for hearings in front of the town council, committee members this week also discussed possible charter amendments relating to the timing and process of organizational meetings.

“We were asked to do that early on, and I have looked at it several times …,” said Councilwoman Natalie Magdeburger, committee chair. “I think it is a charter change, which is a much bigger process.”

According to the town code, candidates elected to the town council cannot take office before the seventh day following an election, meaning the town’s organizational meeting to swear in new members must be held at least a week after the election. The specific timing of the organizational meeting, however, was called into question following last year’s election, when the four newly elected council members requested a swearing-in ceremony take place at an earlier date sometime after the seven-day requirement expired.

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The committee last week also agreed to consider term limits for council members.

“One issue that came to us was term limits for council members,” Magdeburger said. “If we are going to do a charter change, we need to look at that as well.”

Magdeburger noted the proposed charter changes, if approved, would be forwarded to the state. Committee member Ann Riley, however, said she was concerned the proposed changes would appear political, as they would be approved by members of the town council.

“My issue is it could be seen as political,” she said. “Maybe we should consider that any election changes should be changed by referendum.”

Magdeburger noted that any proposed charter changes would require public hearings.

“We could get feedback that way,” she said.

Committee members last week also discussed a proposed ordinance prohibiting the sale of recreational marijuana in the town’s commercial district. Officials, however, ultimately agreed to research the issue and table the development of any municipal legislation until state law legalizing it is enacted.

“What we can do is very limited …,” Magdeburger said. “To me, we don’t know what the law will look like. Right now, there is no law.”

While the town code currently prohibits some commercial activities, committee member John Nason argued developing an ordinance now would be premature and create unnecessary conflict with the town’s commercial property owners. Riley agreed.

“Maybe we wait to see where the state goes,” she said.

Lastly, committee members agreed to develop an ordinance allowing a Businesses Helping Businesses initiative to proceed. Simply put, the plan allows commercial property owners to offer their vacant lots to restaurants and retail stores during peak hours.

“Our ordinance currently prohibits it …,” Magdeburger said. “What I’d like to do is have meetings with businesses willing to do it and are concerned about it and hear what the logistics are so when we are writing our ordinances, it’s streamlined for them.”

Warren’s Station owner Scott Mumford encouraged the committee to let the business community develop its own plan.

“My comment was let us figure it out …,” he said. “I don’t know how much oversight the town needs for this.”

Magdeburger added that the committee still needed to change the town’s ordinance.

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.