Lawsuits Continue in Dewey Beach - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Lawsuits Continue in Dewey Beach

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DEWEY BEACH, De. - The debate continues over Dewey Beach's ability to tax it's businesses. On Dec. 17, the Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock sided with the town, dismissing a complaint filed by the Highway One Partnership. In response, the coalition has now resubmitted a new amendment to the complaint to further contest the decision. 

The group filed the suit initially arguing that the business license fees were taxes, which they argued were illegal. This dates back to the town's charter which says the town cannot initiate property taxes. However, the court decided that all other taxes are acceptable within their authority.

The new amended complaint was filed on Dec. 23. The attorney for the group, Stephen Spence has argued that the costs of the fees are "unreasonable" because they exceed normal business costs. 

The Highway One Partnership includes many restaurants and bars such as the Rusty Rudder, Jimmy's Grille, and Bottle and Cork. All three of these businesses are owned by Alex Pires, the man who has lead the charge for these lawsuits. WBOC reached out to Pires on Tuesday but he was on vacation with his family and was not able to comment. WBOC also reached out to his attorney multiple times, but did not receive any comment. 

Courtney Riordan is a commissioner for Dewey Beach and said the decision was about fairness. He said the town's unique charter bans property taxes, and that for that reason, it was important to maintain the town's ability to collect from businesses. 

"Everybody tries not to pay," he said. "So you can't blame him (Pires) for that. I think this is kind of a weak attempt to do it though because the courts have said we have the ability to tax."

Neighboring business owners like Harry Wilson had mixed opinions about the controversy. He said the fees were problematic within certain industries in particular.

"If I was an alcoholic-serving business, then I would find that it's high too," he said.

Wilson admitted that the money needed to come from somewhere though and said that without property taxes, this might have to hit businesses harder than individuals. 

"It's always been unique that Dewey Beach doesn't have a property tax," he said. "And I don't think that's ever going to change. Because I don't think the majority of people are going to come together and say this is a good idea. Will you please tax us." 

For as long as this doesn't happen, the debate will surely continue in the area. The Dewey Beach Business Partnership will be at the next town council meeting to discuss ways to spread the revenue burden fairly. That meeting is scheduled for January 11th at the Dewey Beach life Savings Station on Dagsworthy Avenue.

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