Dover council OKs brewery events proposal

City of Dover sealDOVER — It appears as if Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company will be able to continue hosting popular events such as the R2Hop2 Beer and Music Festival, Cheesetoberfest, beer release parties, brewery tours and fundraisers.

After a lengthy discussion at City Hall on Tuesday night, Dover’s Council Committee of the Whole accepted by a 7-3 vote a proposal by the brewery that will allow it to host a total of 80 event hours over the course of 2017 at its location at 1284 McD Drive.

However, that decision could be quickly changed should Dover Air Force Base officials have concerns that the added events show “encroachment” on its operation.

Ryan Telle, vice president of marketing for Fordham and Dominion Brewing Company, was pleased with Tuesday’s decision and said he understood concerns surrounding it.

“The city of Dover, they’re not trying to hurt anybody, they have rules that they need to abide by and ordinances that they need to protect and sometimes it doesn’t always agree with all local businesses and I’m glad we were able to work it out,” Mr. Telle said.

“I’m hoping that the Air Base is OK with the 80 [hours] and nobody makes a peep. I just want to be able to continue to do what we’re good at and get past this, that’s all.”

Mr. Telle said that the brewery doesn’t have anything booked on its calendar for 2017 yet but wanted to shore up some question marks regarding its future.

Concerns with Fordham & Dominion’s location within the city’s Airport Environs Overlay Zone caused some friction between the brewery and city last June.

Dover City Planner Ann Marie Townshend said Fordham & Dominion is located within an “Airport Environs Overlay Zone” and an “Accident Potential Zone” since it is located about a mile away from the end of the northeast/southeast runway at Dover Air Force Base.

The city of Dover temporarily stopped the brewery’s get-togethers when Ms. Townshend sent the brewery a letter on June 6 stating it would have to limit the number of public events it hosts each year to five due to safety concerns with D.A.F.B. and overlay zone regulations that had been in place since 2001.

According to the zoning ordinance, the Airport Environs Overlay Zone is “expressly intended to protect the public health, safety, and welfare … [and] preserve and promote the integrity of the mission of the Dover Air Force Base as a matter of local, regional and national importance, by regulating development and land use within specific areas surrounding the DAFB.”

Ms. Townshend said the city became aware of an increasing number of events that were taking place at the brewery by monitoring social media this year.

Despite the temporary friction, city and brewery officials were able to reach an agreement on June 29 that allowed Fordham & Dominion to host 40 hours of events over the last six months of 2016.

Taking that into consideration, Fordham & Dominion simply doubled that number over the course of a year in its proposal for 2017 to the city.

Councilman James Hutchison Sr. was strongly against making a decision without first having a discussion with Col. Ethan Griffin, Wing Commander of the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base.

“When I look at Fordham, there’s nobody who supports economic growth more than I do,” Councilman Hutchison said. “They have a fair question to be asked but we have a responsibility to get the answer.

“To come in here [Tuesday[ without knowing what the impact [making a decision] is going to have on Dover Air Force Base and do something would be wrong. I cannot and will not support anything that will send a question mark as far as ‘encroachment’ upon Dover Air Force Base.”

Many councilmen stated the need to show support for bringing businesses such as Fordham into Dover rather than chase them off to other cities.

State Rep. Sean Lynn stepped up to the microphone near the end of the discussion and offered up the easiest solution he could think of.

“If you pass the motion [Tuesday] you have two weeks to get the Air Force Base back into the equation and see if they generally believe that this would be an encroachment issue,” he said. “If you don’t have [their opinion in] two weeks then maybe it’s a matter of just tabling it for another two weeks until you can get some type of reasonable response from the Air Force Base.

“But if you change the ordinance, it’s still within your purvey to change the ordinance back to the way it was if density starts becoming an issue.”

Mayor Robin Christiansen said he would be placing a call to the air base first thing this morning.

Also during its Tuesday meeting, the Committee of the Whole voted to authorize City Manager Scott Koenig to solicit offers using a commercial real estate firm for the former Dover Public Library at 45 South State Street. The library was declared excess property.

The building had been sought by Wesley College in July as a potential state-of-the-art educational facility dedicated to the teaching and training in health science – in particular, occupational therapists – and other high-demand fields of study.

Wesley College sought to have ownership of the old library building transferred to the college, saying it would relieve the city of associated costs of the building and ensure that a vacant building with limited parking is put to productive use.

However, some members of city council felt it might attract a better value if it were put on the open market. Councilman Lewis added that it’s not so much the building because it has sat dormant since Dover opened its new $20.8 million library at 35 Loockerman Plaza in September 2012.

Rather, it is about the potential for the land. The old library building is 17,980 square feet and sits on 0.8587 of an acre. It was appraised by Dover Consulting Services Inc. on May 12 to have a value of $1.62 million.

‘No smoking’ signs to be funded by grant

The city of Dover was awarded with an $11,400 tobacco prevention mini-grant on Tuesday that will enable it to install 300 “No Smoking” signs around the city’s buildings and parks. The mini-grant program is made possible through the Delaware Division of Public Health’s Tobacco Prevention Community Contract. Funding for the contract is provided by the Delaware Health Fund.

“For the record, I am delighted the city has been awarded this grant and appreciate [Assistant City Manager] Kirby Hudson for undertaking the task and getting it accomplished,” Councilman Lewis said. “Through receiving this grant, local tax dollars will be saved that would have been used to purchase ‘No Smoking’ signage.”

City parks ‘blue light’ phones to be removed

Dover City Council voted in September to remove the five emergency “blue light” phones that are located in some of the city parks.

There will be two phones removed at Silver Lake, two at White Oak Park and one at Schutte Park on Thursday.

City staff recommended the removal after a malfunction occurred over Memorial Day weekend, causing it to continually call the 911 Center, tying up emergency dispatchers.

After evaluating the data from the blue light phones it was discovered that nearly everyone uses cell phones to call 911, and many of the calls that would hail police officers to the area were faulty and proved to be malfunctioning of the units.

There was no data to show that the phones had been used for emergency responses during the time the phones have been in service. The blue lights were installed around 10 years ago.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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