Fenwick Council Unanimously Opposes Retail Marijuana

Fenwick Council Unanimously Opposes Retail Marijuana
Photo by Bethany Hooper

FENWICK ISLAND – An ordinance banning the operation of marijuana facilities will advance to a second reading following a favorable vote last week.

Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance banning the operation of marijuana manufacturing, testing or retail facilities on first reading. Mayor Natalie Magdeburger said the ordinance, drafted by the Fenwick Island Charter and Ordinance Committee, follows state statute.

“We waited for the state to pass whatever law it was going to pass, and then looked at the ordinance in terms of what municipalities were empowered to do and not and then drafted this ordinance that basically prohibits the sale of marijuana in the town limits,” she explained. “This came out of the charter and ordinance committee with a unanimous recommendation. It’s already been reviewed and approved by legal counsel, and I would move to accept it for a first reading.”

Last year, the topic of recreational marijuana was referred to the charter and ordinance committee for review. With new laws legalizing recreational marijuana now in effect, the committee in recent months began exploring the town’s options for banning sales.

In October, the committee voted to forward a draft ordinance to the town council with a favorable recommendation. The ban would only apply to the corporate limits of Fenwick Island.

“We have a big portion of Route 1 that is incorporated, but there is a section of Route 1 that falls within Sussex County rules. And state statute does not authorize counties to limit the sale of marijuana …,” Magdeburger told charter and ordinance committee members. “We will exercise our rights, but understand from Atlantic Street to the state line, it is not under our jurisdiction.”

On the agenda for discussion and action last Friday, the town council voted 7-0 to approve the marijuana ordinance on first reading.

The council last week also agreed to send an ordinance allowing some electronic signs to be used in Fenwick Island back to the charter and ordinance committee for revisions. While the proposed ordinance, requested by members of St. Matthews By-The-Sea, would allow electronic signs displaying static written messages, council members expressed concerns that the use of such electronic signs would go against the town’s dark skies initiative.

“I feel this ordinance change will encourage other businesses to just change their signs and will contribute to invasive and distracting lights in the commercial district,” said Councilwoman Janice Bortner, chair of the town’s residential concerns committee. “I understand it is burdensome on the church members to have to change the letters on their sign, but this ordinance change will have long-term negative effects on dark skies that the new comprehensive plan has endorsed.”

Councilman Richard Benn said he believed the ordinance needed to define the brightness and color of the electronic signs, among other things.

“I think i think we need to look at some more limitations than what we just have on there to be quite honest,” he said.

Councilman Kurt Zanelotti agreed.

“I think there needs to be some parameters on it,” he said.

After further discussion the council agreed to table the ordinance and send it back to the charter and ordinance committee for revisions.

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.