Cape Gazette
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Longtime property owner files for Dewey council

Danaher would use research background to make decisions
By Kara Nuzback | Aug 20, 2013
Photo by: Anna Legates

Dewey Beach — A Dewey Beach property owner says she would use her background as a professional researcher to support her votes if elected to serve on town council.

Property owner Ellen Danaher, 75, filed to run for one of three commissioner seats, Aug. 19.  Danaher said she wants to be a voice for residential property owners while encouraging compromise among all groups in town.  “My real concern is that we kind of pull together,” she said.

Danaher is a full-time resident of Alexandria, Va., but, she said, she spends much of her time at her home on Swedes Street and has owned property in Dewey Beach for 30 years.

Before Danaher retired in 1975 to raise her children, she worked in auditory research for Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.  Danaher said she has used her experience as a professional researcher to independently investigate Dewey Beach issues, from a proposed microbrewery to a gross receipts tax.

She said the answers are often in the town code.  “The commissioners labor over decisions because they don’t know what the code says,” Danaher said.  “I think that kind of background work makes it easier for the commissioners to make smart decisions without getting into trouble legally.”

When the budget and finance committee recommended a gross receipts tax, Danaher said she looked into its legality and found only Delaware Alcoholic Beverage Control could levy a tax on alcohol.  “I guess it was presumed by budget and finance that they could tax alcohol,” Danaher said.

On July 19, Dewey Beach Town Council voted 3-2 to table the tax and instead allow businesses six months to come up with an alternative proposal to create a new source of revenue for Dewey Beach. “I would have researched it before we even got that far,” Danaher said.

“I can’t imagine people not having a business, like myself, designing an ordinance or a tax for people who do have a business,” she said.  “We need to protect all the different components of the community.”

Danaher said she is also concerned with zoning issues, especially on the north end of town, which is predominantly residential.  “I love the way Dewey looks now,” she said.  “I love the irregular streets, the irregular everything.”

She said some zoning changes have allowed residents to build large compounds and multi-level parking garages.  “I’m concerned about some of those changes in residential zones,” she said.  “Do people want it this way?”

Danaher said Dewey Beach Planning Commission holds public hearings to discuss all possible changes to the zoning code.  “You don’t have a lot of attendance, and people aren’t well-informed about how it affects their properties,” she said.

Danaher said the zoning code should reflect the town’s comprehensive plan, and a citizen’s survey conducted before the plan was adopted in 2007.  The plan is scheduled to undergo a full update in 2017.

“We can always re-evaluate what the citizens want for the town,” she said.  “I think the people need to have a strong voice.”

Danaher was a member of the town’s first noise committee, which was created shortly after the town incorporated in 1981.  She has run unsuccessfully for a commissioner’s seat twice in the last 30 years.

“I think I’m in a dramatically different place now,” she said.  Danaher said she now has a better understanding of the challenges facing Dewey Beach’s business community.  “I have a greater appreciation for their needs, their priorities,” she said.

Danaher is the third candidate to file for the three seats available in the municipal election, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21.  Mayor Diane Hanson and Commissioner Anna Legates have also filed.  The deadline to file is 5 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 22.

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