Rehoboth Beach officials are set take action to protect the city's three fresh-water lakes.
The city commissioners and planning commission will move forward with three code changes proposed by the planners and submit a 16-page report to state agencies for review by the Preliminary Land Use Service.
Mayor Sam Cooper said the most important code change is establishing a 10-foot no-build buffer from the lakes’ edge for all properties within the city limits. Cooper said this change is critical because the city has a temporary moratorium preventing building within 15 feet of the lakes, due to end in February.
“The sooner we clear that moratorium, the better,” he said. Cooper said the moratorium was a way to buy time until a solution could be found; now that a solution has been found, the city should lift the moratorium.
Members of the planning commission and the city commissioners also plan establish a site-plan review process for any residential structure built or substantially renovated whose foundation is within 25 feet of the lakes’ edge. Officials said it could be based on a site plan review ordinance already on the books for large residential and commercial developments.
The last potential change is prohibiting the installation of yard watering systems within 10 feet of the lakes’ edge. Cooper said this change might be more difficult because enforcing it could be problematic.
These three recommendations were among the planning commission’s recommendations for improving the health of the three lakes within the city: Silver Lake, Lake Comegys and Lake Gerar. Much of the attention of the report was focused on Silver Lake; Lake Comegys has only a small connection with the city and Lake Gerar is already protected by buffers and aerators installed several years ago.
The commission’s report also focuses on educating the public on how public activity affects the lakes. Planning commission Chairman Preston Littleton said, “They need to know about how people who live all the way across town are responsible for the health of that lake.”
He said the city needs to establish a long-term plan to educate citizens about how they can help protect the lakes.
Commissioner Patrick Gossett said, “This is not a one or two-year program. This is going forward forever. The lakes have been there for many, many years and due to our stewardship, it has to be there for future generations.”
He said one way this could be accomplished is by getting Rehoboth Elementary School students involved through biology and science classes.
In order to stop runoff into the lake, the report recommends silt screening for construction sites, encouraging pervious surfaces for driveways and prohibiting storage of construction materials on city streets.
Littleton and Cooper agreed to table the lake bank stabilization measures for Silver Lake – such as requiring all lakefront property owners to have a buffer, rip rap or bulkhead – until ownership issues with the lake are clarified.
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has been investigating whether it has ownership rights over Silver Lake. Littleton said until that issue is resolved, the city should hold off.
On that note, Littleton said he wanted state involvement, through the PLUS process, in the report.
“It sort of opens up that conversation to a wider audience of officials and gets them on board to work with us,” he said.
The commissioners and planning commission were in agreement on the direction of the report. Gossett said “This is an incredible amount of time, interest and education for ourselves, the city commissioners, and also the public. This is an incredible statement of what our heritage is about in this community.”