State officials say they want to know who owns Silver Lake – that question is the state's primary issue in reviewing a Rehoboth Beach report on improving the health of the city’s three lakes.
The primary focus of the report, written by the Planning Commission, is improving Silver Lake.
While the planners recommended various measures for buffers and bank stabilization, Kevin Coyle, representing the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said the central question is, who owns the lake?
Silver Lake falls under three jurisdictions: mostly Rehoboth, but also Sussex County and Dewey Beach. DNREC has also made recent overtures that the state has ownership rights. Mayor Sam Cooper said the state has said it has ownership rights but officials are not ready to claim complete ownership.
Cooper said the city would not fight the state if state officials were to claim ownership. He said state ownership could bring a broader approach to bank stabilization, making the banks more appealing and uniform, rather than the mishmash of bulkheads, buffers and riprap now bordering the water.
Coyle said, “I think the town would love for DNREC to assume responsibility for dredging, maintaining the water level in the lake, things of that nature.”
In his Oct. 24 presentation to the Preliminary Land Use Service, or PLUS panel, Planning Commissioner David Mellen explained how developing the report started with the controversy over the house at 6 Silver Lane, which was built 6 feet from the lake's edge. While the city was unable to do anything to stop the house from being built, the city commissioners passed a moratorium preventing building around the city’s lakes. City officials also charged the planners with coming up with ordinances to preserve the lakes. The planners presented their report to the commissioners Sept. 10 and recommended the report be reviewed through a PLUS review.
Cooper said he wants to move forward on an ordinance that would establish a 10-foot no-build zone around the city’s lakes. He said he would like to get the current moratorium – which prohibits building 15-feet from the lake’s edge and expires in February – off the books.
However, Cooper said, it is unlikely the matter would be passed before the end of the year, because it would be a zoning change requiring a resolution and a public hearing.
Cooper also said he’d like to require site plan review for any property owner who builds within 25 feet of the lake. Cooper said it would be good for the city to have a chance to sit down with prospective builders and discuss and examine the impact of building so close to the lake.
State officials will follow up with the city within 20 days with written comments from the Oct. 24 meeting of PLUS, a panel of representatives from various state agencies, including, DNREC, Department of Transportation and the Office of State Planning Coordination, among others.
The 16-page planning commission report can be found at the city’s website, www.cityofrehoboth.com.