State seeks input on Ruddertowne baywalk, beach

DNREC to hold public hearing at Baycenter Feb. 8
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control will hold a public hearing on Ruddertowne's bayside amenities, Feb. 8, at the Baycenter. SOURCE RYAN KENNEDY
February 5, 2013

State officials will pay a visit to Dewey Beach to hear what residents think about a proposed baywalk and beach extension at Ruddertowne.  Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m., Friday, Feb. 8, at the Cove in Ruddertowne to discuss an application from developer Dewey Beach Enterprises.

A years-long legal battle between the town and the developer ensued over the redevelopment of Ruddertowne, until both parties signed a February 2011 mutual agreement and release, which maps out certain facets of the redevelopment.  A key component of the agreement allowed DBE to build in excess of Dewey Beach’s 35-foot height limit; in exchange, DBE agreed to offer free amenities to the town.

Amenities included an outdoor public baywalk and gazebo, but to build the the baywalk a permit from DNREC is required.

In DBE’s initial application, filed in October, the developer sought approval for the baywalk, a 24-slip marina and an extension of the beach on the bayside of Dickinson Avenue.

The developer has since filed an amended application that does not include the marina.  In the Jan. 15 application, Evelyn Maurmeyer, of Lewes environmental consulting firm Coastal Marine Estuarine Research, said DBE submitted the new proposal in response to local feedback regarding the proposed marina.

“We have to make sure we’re following the MAR,” said DBE Partner Jim Baeurle.  “The marina is off the table.”

Still on the table is the proposed beach extension.

Citizens to Preserve Dewey, a group that formed to protect the town’s 35-foot height limit, is speaking out against the bayside beach extension, which they say would create a private beach on public land.

In a Feb. 1 newsletter, the group also says DBE’s plan for outfall pipes could conflict with the town’s master plan for stormwater drainage, which is currently being developed to address flooding on the bayside of Dewey Beach.

According to DBE’s application, “The proposed project will provide a wide, safe, public beach for public use for recreational activities.”

“The word ‘private’ doesn’t appear anywhere in our application,” Baeurle said.  “The beach will be open to the public 24-7.”

The town is obligated to help DBE obtain approval for a public baywalk, but not for the beach extension, which was not specified in the agreement.

According to the agreement, if DNREC does not approve the baywalk, DBE will construct the baywalk in the area closest the bay not requiring state approval.

Maurmeyer said at a Dec. 8 town council meeting the baywalk would run along the Rehoboth Bay from Dickinson to Van Dyke Avenue.  If the application were approved, the beach at Van Dyke Avenue and Rehoboth Bay would be widened from 20 feet to 60-80 feet, she said.

“All of this is guaranteeing, at the end of the day, people will have more access to the beach, not less,” Baeurle said.  “I’d be interested to see who testifies against it.”

An informal workshop is scheduled – prior to the public hearing – at 4 p.m., Friday, Feb. 8, at the Cove in Ruddertowne.

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