Beach massages stall in Dewey

Commissioners debate business on the beach
A proposal to bring massages to the beach area of Swede Street in Dewey Beach will have to wait until at least the June commissioners meeting before getting approval. Shown is the Swede Street beach entrance. BY CHRIS FLOOD
May 20, 2014

At least for now, visitors to Dewey Beach can leave the massage oils at home.

After a lengthy discussion about the use of the town’s beaches for commercial enterprises and the process for approving these activities, Dewey town  commissioners voted to send a proposal to offer massages on the beach to the planning commission for further scrutiny.

Members of the town’s marketing committee brought up the proposal during a May 10 commissioner meeting.

Heather Shafer, owner of the Rehoboth-based Kaya Wellness & Yoga, would run the massage program. She is also in charge of beach yoga in Dewey, which runs seven days a week and is entering its fifth summer season.

Shafer said the plan is to offer massages in a portable tent from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday through Monday.

Shafer proposed offering massages on the oceanside of Swedes Street because that’s where the yoga takes place, so staff would already be there to help put up and take down the tent, she said.

Commissioner Courtney Riordan said he wasn’t against massages, but he thought having them on or near the town’s beaches commercializes the beach. He said he didn’t think yoga and the massages were comparable because yoga comes and goes in the mornings, while the massages would be set up during the busiest times of the day.

“This is different,” he said of the massage proposal.

David King, planning commission chair, said the discussion wasn’t about massages; it was about the process by which it had been brought forth to council.

“I support this kind of activity, but we have a process,” he said.

Committee member Marilyn Seitz said the massage on the beach proposal was her idea; she thought it was in line with what the committee had been tasked to do – think of things to positively promote Dewey Beach.

The commissioners asked the committee to think outside the box, she said, but for some this is too far outside the box.

Marc Appelbaum, Dewey Beach town manager, spoke favorably of the idea and said Shafer and her staff have been well received since they began offering yoga.

“I have received no complaints about yoga on the beach, and I get complaints about everything,” said Appelbaum. “I get complaints about clouds in the sky.”

The big picture problem that arose from the discussion was how the beach is zoned – even town attorney Fred Townsend said it isn’t clear to him during the meeting – and how the town should precede going forward on other proposals.

The town gets these ideas, allows them to happen and then problems come up, said Commissioner Gary Mauler.

Riordan said the beach may not be zoned specifically, but it was the town’s job to protect its best interests.

Commissioners tasked the planning commission with addressing the issue during its next meeting, scheduled for Saturday, June 7, so the commissioners can take a vote on the proposal during its next scheduled meeting Friday, June 20.

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