Dewey businesses to be fined for extra safety costs

Ordinance drafted in response to Northbeach issues
July 12, 2016

Story Location:
Dagsworthy Avenue
Dewey Beach  Delaware
United States

Thanks in large part to two police-involved incidents in the parking lot of Northbeach earlier this summer, businesses in Dewey can now be assessed costs associated with the town arranging unbudgeted public safety resources.

Mayor Diane Hanson said the passage of this ordinance will make sure the town always has the tools needed to maintain the safety and welfare of the town.

Passed by a 3-2 vote during a July 8 town council meeting, the ordinance amended the town’s business licensing code by adding a subsection authorizing special assessments against licensees whose business cause the town to call in for extra public safety resources to respond to demonstrated risks of disorder associated with that business.

In addition to Hanson, Commissioners Dale Cooke and Mike Dunmyer voted in favor. Commissioners Courtney Riordan and Gary Mauler voted against the measure.

Riordan argued the ordinance didn’t do enough. He said it assumes the town will continue to allow these incidents to occur.

Riordan said having a business license in Dewey is not a guarantee. He suggested a measure that allows the town to revoke the licence. Once bitten, OK, he said. Twice bitten, revoke the license, and they don’t get it back until they’ve demonstrated things are better, he said.

Cooke said he initially had the same feelings as Riordan but was advised by two different attorneys that it would not be as simple as taking a business license away. Both attorneys said the business owner would point to town code and ask what they violated to have their license revoked, he said.

Mauler said he wanted to know the baseline for invoking the new ordinance. He asked what would prevent the town’s police chief from saying an extra full-time police officer is needed and then charging it to a specific business.

Commissioner Mike Dunmyer said requires some level of trust that the trust the town manager and police chief would not abuse the power associated with it.

While not a truly direct action, said Dunmyer, this will help prevent problems in the future.

No member of the Dewey Police Department was in attendance at the meeting, but Marc Appelbaum said he had run the proposal by police staff, and, he said, they were in favor of it. They said it was going to be a terrific tool, he said.

“The police are all for it,” he said.

Attorney Stephen Spence attended the meeting representing Highway One, the owner of Northbeach. He said his client was generally willing to work with the town, but as written, there were some concerns with the ordinance.

Spence said he shared Mauler’s concern, and noted there’s no right of appeal beyond the governmental agency imposing the assessment and that an unpaid assessment can become a property lien after a 30-day written notice.

Spence suggested delaying the vote.

Hanson said that if council did nothing, then they have nothing.

“This is a disincentive,” she said. “We can look at ways to make it stronger.”

Fred Townsend, town attorney, said he believed the ordinance, when used, would hold up in a court of law.

Steve Montgomery, Starboard owner, said he had spoken with most of the businesses in town, and everyone was on board with the concept of the ordinance.

He said didn’t like the idea of shutting businesses down, but moving forward on the ordinance was something that needed to be done to ease the public’s mind.

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