Agency OKs Ruddertowne bay walk

DNREC requires 24/7 public access to leased land
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control approved construction of a boardwalk along the bay at Ruddertowne in Dewey Beach. BY KARA NUZBACK
June 17, 2013

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has given Dewey Beach Enterprises the go-ahead to construct a 16-foot wide bay walk adjacent to Lighthouse Cove.  The agency is also allowing DBE to extend the beach on the bayside of Van Dyke Avenue.

DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara issued a May 23 order approving the developer’s request to lease the subaqueous land along the Rehoboth Bay at Ruddertowne.

O’Mara denied the construction of a public marina, which would have included a boat dock and pier.

O’Mara said the order was based on a report from Senior Hearing Officer Robert Haynes, who presided over a public hearing on the developer’s application Feb. 8.  According to Haynes’ report, most members of the public supported the bay walk, and the developer’s final application was consistent with its agreement with the town of Dewey Beach.

In February 2011, Dewey Beach and DBE signed a mutual agreement and release, which allowed the developer to build Ruddertowne in excess of the townwide 35-foot height limit.  In exchange, DBE agreed to provide certain public amenities at Ruddertowne, including designated town space and a public bay walk at least 12 feet wide.

At the Feb. 8 hearing, some property owners said they were worried public access on the bay walk would be hindered by tables and chairs from restaurants on site and the bay front beach would be used commercially.

In his May 15 report, Haynes said public access should be required if O’Mara approves the project.

According to a draft lease, the bay walk shall be open to the public year-round, 24-hours a day, and public use shall not be limited by placement of chairs and tables.  The draft lease also prohibits any commercial enterprise that would restrict public access on the beach extension.

“If the lease terms are not followed, then the issue is a matter to be brought to the department’s attention as an enforcement matter so that appropriate action may be taken for any violation of the lease,” Haynes wrote.

Haynes also recommended the town be given the authority to enforce the provisions of the lease.

“During the 20-year term of this lease the lessee shall agree to pay the state of Delaware the sum of $1,365 per annum for a total of $27,300 for the 13,650 square-feet of fill on public subaqueous lands utilized for the new beach nourishment area,” the draft states.

DBE’s initial application for the project was submitted to DNREC Nov. 5, 2012.  In its first application, the developer requested approval of a beach extension and an eight-foot wide bay walk with a pier and a 24-slip boat docking area.

Haynes said DBE submitted a modified application Jan. 15, requesting a 16-foot wide bay walk and eliminating its previous request for a public marina based on “local feedback” and the 2011 agreement with the town.  “Most of the public comments supported the bay walk based upon the alternative that was submitted,” Haynes wrote.

DBE partner Jim Baeurle said in an email, "We are still getting a handle on the conditions and parameters of the permit.  When we do, we will issue a press release at that time. Any further comment would be premature."

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