Henlopen Acres officials say they will move forward with or without the Rehoboth Art League to develop a policy for a cultural zone for the league.
At the commissioners’ April 12 meeting, Mayor David Hill said, “I think this is a very critical issue on the table. It is very important to our town. We have got to resolve it. We have spent a lot of time going round and round.”
Hill said the town will move forward, but the invitation is open for the art league to collaborate in the process.
In January, the commissioners approved and sent the art league a 13-question survey to solicit information to evaluate the art league’s zoning status. The art league did not respond; league attorney Mark Dunkle sent a letter to the town saying the questionnaire was unnecessary and untimely.
Dunkle said the art league submitted statements and documentation to the planning commission and the town manager during last year’s comprehensive plan review detailing the art league’s status and the league’s need for a new cultural zone classification.
Hill said it important for the town to get input from the art league, using a comprehensive approach where everyone is on the same page. He said he wanted to resolve the issue to move on to other matters facing the town.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t get a response. There was no effort to provide any information,” Hill said.
He said the commissioners should consult with town solicitor Glenn Mandalas to figure out the town’s options.
Commissioner John Staffier, who helped write the questionnaire, said he was also disappointed in the lack of response. He said it would be irresponsible to consider a cultural zone without getting information from the art league.
Commissioner Frank Jamison said Dunkle’s letter was condescending and infuriating.
Art league president Diana Beebe, who attended the Henlopen Acres meeting, said while she appreciated the town’s effort in sending the questionnaire, the league has sent the town an example of a cultural zone ordinance in Lewes to use as a model for what could be done with the art league.
“All we’re asking for is a conversation about whether or not this town will consider the things we have asked for. Can we just have a conversation about the cultural zone?” Beebe asked. She said the questionnaire did not contain what the art league expected, and many of the questions posed were already a matter of public record.
Hill said the town has attempted to start a process; the art league's failure to provide the information requested puts the commissioners at a disadvantage. Hill said he hoped the league would reconsider its position.
Jamison said, “I think we all want to have a discussion. A discussion is not getting a threatening letter from a lawyer. A conversation isn’t in the newspapers; it’s in a meeting.”
Marcia DeWitt, 55 Tidewaters, said the questionnaire is a red herring. She said the town was asked by state officials to consider the cultural district in its comprehensive plan and has never done so.
Hill said, “The letter from the lawyer speaks for itself. If the lawyer’s letter is the final word, so be it.”
Staffier said, “We’ve had a lot of heated comments about a cultural zone. No two people in this room have the same concept of what a cultural zone is. What are the rules that apply? What are the regulations that would apply? Before we can have a meaningful discussion we have to have an understanding about what are we discussing. We don’t have that.”
Commenting on the discussion, Mandalas said, “I think there’s a genuine interest from the art league and the town into resolving it. I’ve been surprised – it’s like two ships passing each other in the night.”