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Henlopen Avenue project riles resident

Water main installation expected to be finished in May
March 5, 2018

Rehoboth Beach officials are now undecided about using gravel in the city-owned right of way on Henlopen Avenue

On Feb. 1, Mayor Paul Kuhns sent a letter telling Henlopen Avenue property owners objects in the right-of-way would be removed to make way for gravel along the shoulder, which could be used for public parking.

Now, however, Kuhns said city officials are reconsidering that plan.

“We have had a number of conversations with the contractor....  We have also had a number of conversations with property owners.  I am giving the suggestions some thought, and I hope to discuss further,” he said.

But the city’s indecision is upsetting resident Mario Rocha, 114 Henlopen Ave., one of several property owners affected by the changes. Rocha said the city has repeatedly failed to communicate effectively with residents.

Rocha has a walkway that extends across the right-of-way to the roadway. He said his walkway is not illegal and was previously approved by the city. 

City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said, “The city’s policy is that the city’s right of way should remain unobstructed.  As an initial matter, the right of way is owned by the city, and no person has a general right to obstruct the right of way.”

Mandalas emphasized the city’s right to prohibit, remove or regulate objects in the right-of-way, although the city has allowed some exceptions, typically through a license agreement.

Rocha’s history with the city goes back a decade, when he asked permission to install gravel in the right-of-way with wooden beams to outline the walkway. Back then, city officials demanded he use grass instead of gravel. Rocha says he fought grass because it would be too muddy, but both gravel and beams were denied. With that backdrop, it came as a surprise to find city officials may now want to lay gravel in the right of way.

“There’s this flip-flop problem that we’ve had with the city all along,” Rocha said. “They can do whatever they want. I realize that. I’m not questioning that at all.”

Rocha’s recent problem occurred during construction of a new water main along Henlopen Avenue by city crews.

Rocha said despite his efforts for clarification, the city has sent mixed messages as to the route of the water line. He said he inquired about the route so he could remove any objects in the right-of-way.

He said then-department supervisor Howard Blizzard first said that the line would avoid a garden of pachysandra on his lot. Rocha said he had had three or four meetings with the city to avoid any confusion, and yet, the pachysandra was removed by city crews.

“It’s all city property; I did all I can do. At this point, all I can do is cry or be frustrated. It didn’t have to be done that way,” he said.

Rocha said he feels like the project was not communicated effectively with the public. He said he’s been variously told that the project would be done late last year, then in January and now in April.

“Just communicate to the citizens,” Rocha said.

City spokeswoman Krys Johnson said work on the Henlopen water main has resumed after city crews were pulled away to install another new water main on State Road.

“The crew anticipates reaching Grove Street by mid-March,” Johnson said. Once the new main is installed, work will begin to connect the new water main to the existing water lines at residences, she said. Johnson said the Water Department estimates completion of this project in May.

Kuhns said the issue of construction on Henlopen Avenue will be discussed at the Monday, March 5 workshop.