Mar 17, 2023
The Board of Commissioners has scheduled an April 21 public hearing to provide the public with an opportunity to offer input as it considers amending Chapter 270, Section 270-77, of the city code relating to the expiration of special exceptions and variances granted by the Board of Adjustment.
Commissioners are expected to vote at the April 21 Commissioners meeting on whether to revise Section 270-77 of the city code, which sets the expiration timeline for special exceptions and variances granted by the Board of Adjustment. Currently, a special exception or variance expires if the applicant fails to obtain a building permit or fails to change the use, as the case may be, within six months from authorization of the special exception or variance. It recently has become clear that the existing timeline may be difficult, if not unworkable, for large commercial projects that require site plan review through the Planning Commission.
The proposed code change modifies the expiration timeline for projects that require site plan review by providing that, if a proposed use or development requires site plan approval, a special exception or variance shall expire if the applicant fails to apply for site plan review within 45 days of authorization of the special exception or variance. Further, the variance will expire if the applicant fails to obtain a demolition permit or building permit or fails to change the use, as the case may be, within six months from the date of final site plan approval. If no site plan review is required, the variance would expire in six months unless the applicant has obtained a demolition or building permit.
If adopted by Commissioners, this code amendment would become effective immediately and apply to all existing special exceptions and variances granted by the Board of Adjustment.
“This proposed code amendment addresses a shortcoming in the city’s current code,” says City Manager Laurence Christian, “in that the current code doesn’t realistically provide sufficient time for large-scale commercial projects to get through the city’s review process. We appreciate that developers of the proposed Belhaven Hotel project brought this to the city’s attention, and I’m pleased that we’ve been able to work collaboratively to address this issue.”
“This proposed code change will impact several large projects currently in development,” Christian adds. “The City of Rehoboth Beach wants to work cooperatively with developers to ensure that our application and review process is fair and thorough.”
“We are grateful the city has acknowledged, and is seeking to remedy, the challenge presented to commercial projects like ours that require a site plan review and a variance,” says John Papajohn, whose family has owned the Belhaven property since the 1930s.
The proposed Belhaven Hotel at 2 Rehoboth Avenue is a four-story structure proposed to include more than 115,000 square feet of area, ground-floor retail, an underground parking garage, and more than 110 rooms. The project developers applied for a variance from the Board of Adjustment in November 2021. At both the public hearing held November 22, 2021 and in a written decision dated January 24, 2022, the Board of Adjustment voted 3 to 1 to grant the variance. Thereafter, on February 23, 2022, a petition was filed for judicial review of the variance decision. On September 26, 2022, the Delaware Superior Court affirmed the Board of Adjustment’s decision. After the expiration of a 30-day appeal period, the court’s decision became final on October 26, 2022. The Planning Commission is scheduled to begin site plan review of the project at its April 14 meeting.