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Planning Commission News Update #2 - August 3, 2020
The City of Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission held its first virtual meeting on May 8th, followed by two more virtual regular monthly meetings on June 12th and July 10th. Despite the hurdles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue our efforts to return to some semblance of “normal” operations and activities. We are pleased to report that the Planning Commission completed consideration of two partitioning applications (408 Scarborough Avenue and 21 St. Lawrence Street), one concept review for a partitioning of a commercially zoned property on Rehoboth Avenue, a continuation of the concept review relating to the Belhaven Hotel proposal, and a preliminary site plan review of the Clear Space Theatre and Rehoboth Spotlight applications. We also held a virtual special meeting on July 24th, at which we focused on updating the members of the Planning Commission and the public on the status, goals, and the next steps to be taken on the 2020 Comprehensive Development Plan (“2020 CDP”).
The following is a summary of three important matters recently considered:
1. Belhaven Hotel Concept Review:
On June 12th, the Planning Commission continued consideration of the concept review submitted for the Belhaven Hotel. There was a significant focus on the issues related to the property being located in a Special Flood Hazard Area and, in particular, the inclusion of grade-level parking visible from Rehoboth Avenue and the Boardwalk as a result. The representatives of the Belhaven Hotel indicated that they were continuing to seek a line of map amendment from FEMA (which would have the effect of re-designating the flood hazard area to a less restrictive category) that would be necessary in order to have underground parking. However, as of June 12th, the representatives of the Belhaven Hotel were working on the assumption that underground parking would not be permitted. A number of other issues were also identified that require further investigation and resolution.
It was the general consensus of the members of the Planning Commission that, although the current proposal was arguably code compliant, it was inconsistent with the objectives and intentions as set forth in the current CDP, which also has the force and effect of law. Most notably, the members expressed that the current proposal had little harmony with the existing structures at such an iconic location – the Boardwalk, Rehoboth Avenue, and the ocean.
The representatives of the Belhaven Hotel and members of the Planning Commission indicated a willingness to work together to solve issues and, hopefully, come up with the right solution for the project. There was an agreement to hold a work session to accomplish this objective.
The Agenda, Agenda Packet, Minutes and the Video can be found at https://cityofrehoboth.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=817
Since the June 12th Virtual Regular Monthly Meeting, representatives of the Belhaven Hotel and representatives of Building and Licensing and the Planning Commission held two virtual preparatory work sessions for the purpose of establishing agenda topics for consideration at a public work session to be held sometime in the latter half of August. More information will be made available as it is provided to the Planning Commission and a date will be set for the public workshop.
2. Clear Space Theatre & Rehoboth Spotlight:
On July 10th, the Planning Commission dedicated its Virtual Regular Monthly Meeting primarily to consideration of Preliminary Site Plan reviews of applications submitted by Clear Space Theatre and Rehoboth Spotlight (the “Applicants”) for proposed projects at 415 Rehoboth Avenue and 417 Rehoboth Avenue, respectively. There was a considerable public interest in these applications, including participants in the virtual meeting as well as at least 38 e-mails and letters from members of the public.
Representatives of the Applicants described their proposals and provided drawings of the same. The members of the Planning Commission indicated that the drawings, as submitted, were inadequate as they were too difficult to review because they were not of sufficient size. Numerous issues were discussed, including, among others, architectural design, compatibility with the objectives and intentions of the CDP, safety concerns related to traffic, parking and pedestrian modality, and the impact on surrounding areas and, in particular, adjoining property owners.
Over the course of the long meeting and discussions, the members of the Planning Commission identified numerous matters to be addressed by the Applicants. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to set a Public Hearing on the Site Plans, which is scheduled to occur at the virtual regular meeting of the Planning Commission on August 14, 2020, but requested that the Applicants respond to issues and concerns expressed by members of the Planning Commission. The Applicants requested that the Planning Commission provide its comments and recommended actions in writing.
In the interest of full and timely transparency, although the minutes of the July 10, 2020, Planning Commission meeting have not yet been approved, the Planning Commission is providing advance disclosure of its written Comments & Recommended Action Items that have been provided to the Applicants. Included with this Planning Commission News Update # 2 are the Comments & Recommended Action Items, dated July 13, 2020, as well as an Addendum sent to the Applicants on July 18, 2020. Additionally, the Agenda, Agenda Packet, and the Video of the July 10, 2020, Virtual Regular Meeting can be found at: https://cityofrehoboth.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=818
3. 2020 Comprehensive Development Plan:
The Project Scope for the 2020 CDP is divided into four phases. Since our reset in the fall of 2019, Phase 1 (Identify Resources, Data Collection & Creation) and Phase 2 (Kick-Off, Community Outreach Event & Survey) have been completed. We are currently in Phase 3 (Plan Input & Draft Internal Document). Phase 4 (Plan Presentation, Public Comment & Adoption) will, hopefully, launch in the Fall as we continue to strive to meet an aggressive timetable for completion.
Over the last couple of months, individual members of the Planning Commission conducted telephone or e-mail interviews of one or more of the numerous organizations that serve our City and the various City committees that operate as part of our City government. The interview results were submitted to our consultant, Debbie Pfeil of KCI, as well as to the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson. These interviews generated substantial data and information that will be included as part of the “Community Character” section of the 2020 CDP. Although Phase 2 is considered “complete”, as noted above, the Planning Commission decided at its July 24th meeting that, inasmuch as the CDP Expos in April and May were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was important to provide an opportunity for the various community organizations and City committees to provide public input in addition to their interview responses. Therefore, the Planning Commission will extend invitations to these organizations and committees to provide input at a Virtual Special Meeting on August 28, 2020, and, depending on the number of responses, tentatively on August 21, 2020, as well. Public comment will also be part of Phase 4.
At the Planning Commission’s July 24, 2020, Virtual Special Meeting, Debbie Pfeil provided a presentation and led our discussion of the status, goals, and next steps to be taken in connection with its ongoing work on the 2020 CDP. The informative presentation can be found as part of the Agenda Packet for the July 24th Virtual Special Meeting at: https://cityofrehoboth.civicweb.net/document/52115. Our consultant likes to send the Planning Commissioners off with homework; this time to review the initial goals set forth in the presentation and recommend additional goals for consideration for each chapter of the 2020 CDP. Our “homework” assignment is due to our consultant not later than Friday, August 7th.
During the current Phase 3, we continue to gather information and provide input for the initial working draft of the 2020 CDP, which we anticipate will be available in the near future for internal distribution to members of the Planning Commission and City staff for comments. After receiving and assimilating comments from the internal review process, subject to any determination of any further need for collaboration, Phase 4 will usher in the release of a draft of the 2020 CDP to the Board of Commissioners and the community for review and public comment. A presentation will be made at that time to, among other things, review the highlights of the draft 2020 CDP and to demonstrate how to access the City Website CDP Portal and outline the written comment process.
We remain optimistic that with your patience, assistance, support – and a little help from technology – we will be able to timely produce a final 2020 CDP that will responsibly and pragmatically guide the future of our City.
Please continue to follow our 2020 CDP project on the City’s dedicated website link here:
If you have any questions about how to participate in any of our virtual meetings, please contact Ann Womack at [email protected], and for questions about the submission of applications, please contact Ann Womack, Damalier Molina at [email protected], Matthew Janis at [email protected] or any of them at 302.227.6181.
Comprehensive Development Plan
The Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) is the principal document outlining the City of Rehoboth Beach's goals and policies regarding the use of land. It has been designed as a policy statement that should remain valid in the face of change over the years. Properly used, the Plan is the basis for decision-making at all levels of government and will guide the public and private sectors toward beneficial activities affecting its people and land. This Plan has several specific purposes:
- Create a unified set of goals for change and development within and surrounding the City.
- Become the central source of guidance on proposed public activities by coordinating them to ensure that each contributes to the adopted goals.
- Apply the individual tools of planning within the framework of an overall Plan so that regulation is not arbitrarily applied.
- Guide private land-use decisions by providing information on the overall direction of the community.
- Provide analysis and policies that will allow assimilation of the unexpected to the City's advantage, turning problem into opportunity.
- Preserve the more fragile among desirable land-use arrangements and harmonize the sometimes conflicting desires of preserving an asset and using it.
And the final purpose is to...
- Help Rehoboth Beach operate as a “citizen” of Delaware by adopting and following the Land-Use Goals for Delaware.
The City maintains regulations and restrictions to lessen congestion in the streets, to secure safety from fire, panic and other dangers, to promote health and general welfare, to provide adequate light and air, to prevent overcrowding of land, to avoid undue concentration of population and to facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks, and other public requirements. The regulations are made with reasonable consideration, among other things, as to the character of the district and its peculiar suitability for particular uses and with a view to conserving the value of buildings and encouraging the most appropriate use of land throughout the municipality.
These regulations and restrictions are contained within Chapter 270 of the City Code for the purpose of promoting public health, safety, morals or the general welfare of the City of Rehoboth Beach and are known as the “Rehoboth Beach Zoning Ordinance".
The use of all land and any building or portion of a building erected or altered with respect to size and area added to or relocated, and every use within a building or use accessory thereto, shall be in conformity with the provisions of this chapter.