Rehoboth planners finalize recommendations on side yards

Chairman: People are building hotels on these lots
The Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission has forwarded a series of recommendations to the city commissioners that would create proportional setbacks on lots larger than 50-by-100 feet. The commission created its recommendations in response to what it sees as enormous houses being built on larger than standard size lots. BY RYAN MAVITY
August 31, 2013

Homes built on large lots would be required to have larger side yard setbacks based on a recommendation by the Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission.

By a 7-1 vote on Aug. 9, the commission approved recommendations that would proportionally increase the side setbacks for homes on lots larger than 50-by-100 feet.

The commission found that based on existing side yard setbacks, larger houses built on larger lots appear to take up almost the entire lot, imposing on neighboring properties.

“What’s happening now is people are building hotels on these lots,” Chairman Preston Littleton said.

The commission’s recommendation excludes commercial properties and corner lots. Corner lots were excluded because of their irregular shape. Existing lots greater than 50-by-100 feet would be grandfathered.

Proportional side yard setbacks are intended as a way to provide more natural area on larger residential lots.

Littleton’s formula for proportional setbacks would use the existing setback requirements – 6-foot minimum width of each side yard with an aggregate total of 16 feet for both side yards – and multiply them by the how much of the street frontage exceeds 50 feet. For a 100-by-100 foot lot, the multiplier is 2 (100 divided by 50). In this case, the minimum side yard setback for each side is 12 feet, with a total side yard setback of 32 feet.

“The whole thing is not to discourage large houses. It is to have a streetscape that is not overwhelming,” Littleton said. “We’re not trying to penalize these people.”

Commissioner Harvey Shulman, the only no vote, said proportional setbacks would not increase the natural area, but would merely change the position of large houses on the lot.

Commissioner David Mellen suggested increasing the number of off-street parking spaces houses on larger lots must have. He said property owners are building large houses and renting them out to eight to 10 people at a time. However, that measure was not part of the commission's recommendation.

The commission debated holding a public hearing on setbacks, but Commissioner Jan Konesey recommended sending the recommendation to the city commissioners and letting them take up the issue. Changing the setback requirements is a zoning change and would require a public hearing before the city commissioners.