Acres, RAL say zoning issues can be resolved

Town soliciting comments on entity voting
Henlopen Acres Town Solicitor Glenn Mandalas, foreground, Mayor David Hill, center, and Town Manager Tom Roth, share a laugh at the July 12 commissioners meeting. The town commissioners are optimistic a resolution will be found to an ongoing zoning dispute with the Rehoboth Art League. BY RYAN MAVITY
July 31, 2013

Henlopen Acres and Rehoboth Art League officials are optimistic that ongoing zoning issues over the art league property can be resolved.

Regarding the art league, Mayor David Hill said at a July 12 commissioners’ meeting that he was “guardedly optimistic” that the two sides will work together on a solution to the art league’s zoning.

Hill wants to continue working with Commissioner John Staffier and City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas to clarify the art league’s status. It is a process that began in January with a questionnaire sent to the art league to begin a conversation. The art league did not respond to the questionnaire, and Hill and the commissioners made clear that the town was going to move forward with or without the art league.

Hill said the town has extended an open invitation for the art league to consult in the process, and he hopes relations between the two sides are thawing. He said the town needs to work on a legal framework of a plan that would balance the needs of the art league with the needs of private property owners.

Art league President Diana Beebe said the art league plans to take Hill up on the invitation and that there is an opening for both sides to get the issues on the table. She said she hopes the town and the art league can figure out a process for determining what the art league can and cannot do.

Hill also recently met with the art league officials to discuss the matter at the league's recent board of directors meeting.

"We are communicating," Beebe said.

With its property zoned residential, the art league has long lobbied for a new cultural zone, that would allow the league to better maintain its facilities. State officials have asked the town to consider a rezoning of the art league property in the town's update of its comprehensive development plan.

Still, relations between the town and the art league appear to have improved: the art league praised the town’s cooperation in the art league’s 75th anniversary celebration, and Hill declared June 21 that 2013 is Rehoboth Art League Diamond Anniversary Year in Henlopen Acres. For the past two years, the two sides have worked together to coordinate a parking plan for the art league’s annual outdoor show.

At the July 12 meeting, Beebe said, “I would say that I think most people want to resolve this. And it’s important to resolve it in a reasonable way. I think we’re looking for the right process. I think we’re both feeling hopeful about that."


Voting qualifications

A second longstanding issue is a proposed charter change eliminating entity voting in Henlopen Acres.

Under the proposed change, corporations, LLCs and most types of trusts would not be allowed to vote. Revocable trusts where the trustees and the grantor were the same would still be allowed to vote, and anyone who is a property owner or resident of Henlopen Acres would also be allowed to vote.

The change was first introduced in mid-2011, but was tabled as to not affect that year’s municipal election. The commissioners sent the change to the General Assembly for approval in 2012, but the measure was killed before being brought to a vote after concerns were raised that the measure would disenfranchise entities such as the art league. Town officials have always maintained the impetus behind the change was to have “one man, one vote.”

Officially, Henlopen Acres has 50 trusts, nine LLCs, two partnerships and three corporations that would be affected by the change.

In February, the commissioners agreed to table the measure again pending a summer public hearing, although no date was scheduled. At the commissioners’ July 12 meeting, Hill said the plan was to work on a letter soliciting comments from affected entities with the intention of holding an up-or-down vote in October before sending the change back to the General Assembly in January. Hill said the letter would be sent out within two weeks of the July 12 meeting.