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Lewes, Delaware
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August 16, 1996     Cape Gazette
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August 16, 1996
 

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12 - CAPE GAZETYE, Friday, August 16 - August 22,1996 Lewes still without chief; charter change sought By Dennis Forney In the wake of a tie vote that failed to give Lewes a new chief of police, Lewes Coun- cilman Jim Ford has proposed that the town's charter be changed to allow the mayor to vote in any situation where there is atie. Ford sent a memo to Mayor George Smith on Wednesday, Aug. 14 "officially requesting the City Solicitor to provide op- tions for a Charter amendment to not allow an indecisive gridlock vote to occur on any issue. It appears that by specifically stating the Mayor is a member of Council, this would be achieved." Ford sent copies of the memo to Lewes's state legislative represen- tatives - Sen. Robert Voshell and Rep. John Schroeder- who would have to sponsor leg- islation to effect a charter change. Ford's request comes in the wake of the Monday, Aug. 12 Lewes Mayor and Coun- cil meeting where Smith's appointment of Lt. Ronald "Beau" Gooch as the city's next chief of police failed to receive a majority number of votes from the four members of City Council. In the case of appointing a chief of police, Lewes's charter specifies that the Mayor makes the appointment and that it must be con- firmed by a majority vote of the four elected members of Council. (In Lewes, council members are elected separately from the mayor.) The charter require- ment allows a tie vote situation to emerge as COCCH it did at the Aug. 12 meeting. Smith offered Gooch as his selection. "He's acted as chief twice," said Smith, "and he has a good rapport with county and state officials. He has a sincere interest in the city and is respected by its citizens. He's not perfect, but then none of us are. If approved, he would do six months proba- tion as would any new chief." Council member Tony Pratt moved that the appointment be approved with a second by Council member Jim Ford. Council members George Cleaver and Elinor Sbeehan voted against the appoint- ment thus creating the tie. 'Tve carefully reviewed all of the final- ists being considered and responses from previous employers," said Cleaver. "I must decline support. I vote no." Sheehan said she too voted no. Cleaver then suggested that the Mayor and Council go into executive session SMITH to discuss the matter further. Smith said no. He wanted no fur- ther discussion at the meeting and he re- fused comment on the situation from Don Wagner, a Lewes businessman, who asked to say something in Gooch's behalf. At that point Council member Sheehan spoke up: "I think this was done in poor taste. I feel embarrassed for him [Gooch, who was seated at the Council table as the vote was taken]." Bob Adams, a resident of Lewes, seated in the front row, then said quickly: "You don't like him anyway." Then amidst growing murmuring from the crowd, Smith gaveled the meeting back to order. It was then that Ford first expressed his concern with the situation. 'q'he procedure needs to be corrected," he said. "The may- or in other opportunities has the tie-break- ing vote and he should in this situation as well." At that point Wagner rose from his seat and walked to the front of the Council room. As he made his turn toward the door, he made a parting comment: "Ron," he said in Gooch's direction, "I'm out of order but the town's with you." After the meeting, Gooch said he was dis- appointed with the vote. "I was surprised when I heard the mayor say my name. I didn't know in advance. At this point I'll keep on being officer-in-charge and waiting until something else happens." Gooch is among five finalist candidates chosen for review from 46 applications that came in after former Chief Richard Stone resigned at the end of March of this year. Both Cleaver and Sheehan said that there were other candidates they could have sup- ported for appointment. Smith said he chose the candidate he felt could best do the job. "I'm not going to select someone else for those two," he said. "We're not any worse off now." Gooch remains the officer in charge. Lewes approves first phase of Pilottown Village II expansion By Dennis Forney Jay Sonecha, who developed Pi- lottown Village Phase I including creation of Ocean View Boule- vard and extension of Fourth Street from downtown Lewes to New Rd., will begin construction on Phase II of the development this fail. Sonecha, of Sussex Life Care Inc., received final approval on 44 of 141 lots with a unanimous vote by members of Lewes Council at their Monday, Aug. 12 meeting. When he gets ready to move forward with the next part of Pi- lottown Village Phase II, he will have to come back to the town to discuss particulars related to loca- tion of a nature trail and a public parking area. There was little discussion be- fore or after the Aug. 12 vote. Mayor George Smith noted that a public hearing and a public work- shop had been held to discuss con- cerns about the projects. Both of those sessions were lengthy and gave developer and surrounding neighbors a chance to discuss plans. The development will be constructed at the end of the pre- sent Ocean View Boulevard, on 15 plus acres behind Harbor Healthcare Center, along the northern side of Canary Creek. "Sonecha said he was obviously happy about the outcome and felt the process had been very fair leading up to final approval. He said lots in the new development will probably sell in a price range between $30,000 and $50,000. A major concern about the new development was the single en- trance and exit via Ocean View Boulevard. Sonecha's plans in- elude a street that eventually could provide an entrance and exit via New Road. Sonecha's plans provide a means for hooking into a street that could be developed in an expanded Pilottown Park area, owned by the Pettinaro Company. Pettinaro is in slow-moving nego- tiations with Lewes about ap- provals for the Pilottown Park ex- pansion. Sonecha chose his words carefully when sizing up the prospects for eventual construc- tion of that New Road-connecting street: "I'm quite optimistic we will both work together to achieve something of longer benefit to the city. It makes good sense." Lewes passes law regulating skateboarders, rollerbladers or over in the streets. "4. Damage public or private property. "5. Be pulled by a car. "If you do this activity, you must: "1. Yield to everyone else. "2. Ride single-file, with traffic. "3. Wear reflective gear at night." To further clarify the legal lan- guage of the laws which will ef- fect what Ford outlined, it was agreed that skateboarders and rollerbladers will be governed by the same traffic rules that govern bicycles. By Dennis Forney Skateboarders and rollerbladers in Lewes have to obey a new set of laws now following action tak- en by members of Lewes Council at their Monday, Aug. 12 meeting. Councilman Jim Ford, who pro- posed the new set of laws, summed up the impact of the laws: "In simple words, if you do this activity (skateboarding or rollerblading), you cannot: "1. Be on a sidewalk if over age 12, except over the drawbridge. "2. Be in any city park except Blockhouse Pond. "3. Have any objects to jump on A number of young skateboarders and rollerbladers were among the crowd attending the Lewes Council meeting Aug. 12. City Solicitor Tempe Steen said her research on laws governing skateboards and rollerblades has resulted in little. "There is no state law on this. The towns are dealing with this before the state. This is really one of the most comprehensive attempts to deal with the issues that I've seen. If you [town council members] think one way is safer than another you can go that way. Your concern is health, safety and welfare of the residents of town." Ford's pro- posed laws passed unanimously. A number of people, including young skateboarders and rollerbladers, attended the Mayor and Council meeting to hear how the formerly unregulated activities would be regulated by new laws. Many had suggestions for changes, but Ford resisted. "These proposals are designed to improve safety in these opera- dons. Let's get these on the books, and see how they work before we decide whether further regulation is needed. This ordinance gives the participants rules to follow and the police rules to enforce." Ford suggested that the new laws be printed in a hand-out item that can be distributed by police officers to educate the public on the new rules. Among suggestions for further regulation were the fol- lowing: Mike Tyler suggested that skateboards be banned from Sec- ond Street. "That's no place for doing gymnastics on wheels. Don't allow skateboards on Sec- ond Street." Nina Cannata suggested that a safety equipment requirement be added to the regulations. Rich Chesney questioned whether Lewes wasn't opening it- self and its residents to liability concerns by allowing skateboard- ers under 12 to use sidewalks. "I'm not averse to the activity. I just fear exposure that homeown- ers, as part owners of the side- walks, would face. (City solicitor Tempe Steen said homeowners al- ready face potential litigation be- cause of uneven sidewalks, roots, tree branches and any number of other physical aspects. "This is just another activity that people can sue over," she said.) Lewis Miles called on the city to prohibit skateboarding alto- gether. "I have a petition with 31 signatures seeking a prohibition," said Miles who presented the mat- ter to Council members. Anton Broadhurst, a young man in the crowd, stood and ques- tioned potential fines of $500 and jail terms for violations. Council member Ford said that with laws come penalties for vio- lation and those who engage in skateboarding and rollerblading would have to understand that breaking laws would bring penal- ties. Ford said he had also looked into establishing an area in town where skateboarders and rollerbladers could do Stunts and tricks but that insurance for such an area would be prohibitive in cost. "To all those interested in providing an alternative, continue to work with me on other options. There is always a solution to the problem. Given the fact that with- in the city limits of Lewes oppor- tunities for teen activities such as movies, bowling, indoor skating, billiards, arcades, miniature golf, public volleyball etc. are non-ex- istent, alternatives need to be ere- ated, publicly and privately, to al- low the community to continue to be what it is. One of the Core Values of the Long Range Plan is Lewes's Diverse Community. Let's all work together to recog- nize the importance of this core value, as it applies to our youth as well as our older residents."