Lewes candidates square off in forum

Voters go to the polls Saturday, May 10
Mike Mahaffie, Rob Morgan and Bonnie OIser are seeking a seat on Lewes City Council. Two seats are up for grabs Saturday, May 10.
April 29, 2014

Lewes City Council hopefuls Bonnie Osler, Mike Mahaffie and Rob Morgan each offered their views at the annual Lewes Homeowners' Association candidate forum April 25 at the Lewes Presbyterian Church.

Two seats are up for grabs in the election slated for Saturday, May 10. Candidates provided cordial conversation on development, parking and noise issues and on the city's future. Deputy Mayor Ted Becker, who is running unopposed in the mayoral race, also took part in the forum.

With the city's update to the comprehensive development plan due in 2015, many residents asked about the candidates' vision for Lewes. As members of the planning commission, Morgan and Mahaffie are already in the process of working on the plan.

“The last plan we wrote we put everything anyone wanted to do in the comprehensive plan,” Mahaffie said. “For this next comprehensive plan we have to hone in on four or five, maybe six, things that we want to accomplish over the next five to 10 years. Otherwise, we're going to disperse our energy, and we're not going to accomplish the things we want.”

Morgan agreed, but added that the city also needs to think about how it will accomplish those goals.

“Once it's drafted, I think we need to have a plan to put it in place,” he said. “We need an implementation plan with funding that will carry out the mandates and recommendations in whatever we decide.”

Osler, the only incumbent, agreed that a tighter, more focused comp plan is the way to go. She said the last plan had 79 recommendations, such as municipal broadband and facilities for commercial fishermen, that were probably more visionary than practical.

“It should be less dream driven and more results driven,” she said. “We can do that. It's our plan. We're going to decide what our priorities are, and we're going to decide what order to take them up because there is limited bandwidth in the city.”

The candidates also discussed the construction of the new library and the vacancy of the current facility once the new building is complete. Osler said she is not in favor of providing more money to the library, saying that in addition to the $1 million already donated for the land, the library board is asking for an additional $1 million for help with construction. She said it may be inappropriate for a community that is becoming a smaller portion of the new library's service area. The money the library has asked for, she said, directly affects the current building, which the city owns.

“It needs to be fixed up, and it's going to cost us some money," she said. "That is one of the big factors that has to be woven into the whole library issue.”

Mahaffie said the future of the existing building would be a good topic for the new part-time city planner, which the city is in the process of hiring.

“My understanding of the current library building is that it does have some physical challenges that will have to be dealt with,” he said. “I think that is something we'll be calling on our planner services to really have a long, hard look at.”

Morgan said it all comes down to finances.

“Whatever we contribute [to the new library] will need to go through the budget process, with input from all of us, and will need to be assessed in the context with other priorities,” he said.

He said the city will have to keep an eye on the maintenance costs of the old building and possibly consider alternatives, such as renting the building, in the future.

Candidates also addressed the ongoing squabble over noise and amplified music at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal. It is unclear whose jurisdiction enforcement falls under. However, Osler said she has drafted a new noise ordinance that she plans to bring forward in the coming months.

“I think we're going to put some renewed energy into that,” she said. “Writing a noise ordinance is not easy. This one has a lot more teeth. There are a variety of noise problems, and most revolve around amplified music.”

Morgan said once the jurisdiction issue is cleared up, then the city will have a clearer path on the topic.

“Every ordinance ought to be either enforced or repealed,” he said. “If it turns out to be under city jurisdiction, then the city does have a challenge.”

For Mahaffie, the issue is difficult because city officials must strike a balance between the city's core values of busy days and quiet nights.

“Outdoor music is an interesting one because that's part of the activity, that's part of the culture, that's part of the life of the city,” he said. “At the same time, we have to balance that with the rights of the people living in the city and the idea of disturbance.”

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., May 10, at Lewes City Hall. Absentee ballots may be returned up to 6 p.m. Election Day. For more information, call city hall at 302-645-7777.

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