In one week voters in Rehoboth Beach are set to elect a mayor and two commissioners at the Saturday, Aug. 9 municipal election.
Vying for his ninth term in office, incumbent Mayor Sam Cooper faces off against Tom McGlone, who also challenged Cooper in 2011.
On the commissioners’ side, incumbent Lorraine Zellers faces a crowded field that includes former Commissioner Kathy McGuiness, Planning Commissioner Francis “Bunky” Markert, business owner John Meng and resident Larry Myslewski. Two of those five will serve three-year terms as commissioner.
The candidates were asked four questions and were limited to 100 words each. The mayoral candidates are listed first with the commissioner candidates after that in alphabetical order.
Please tell us about yourself, including age, educational background and work experience
Cooper, 62: We manage a number of rental cottages near our home that have been owned by my family for more than 60 years. I am also part owner of the Beach View Motel located on Wilmington Avenue. I am a product of the local public schools having graduated from Cape Henlopen High School in 1970 and having received an Associate Degree in Applied Science, with a specialty in civil engineering from Del Tech.
McGlone, 51: I have a BS in Finance from Drexel University in Philadelphia and an MBA in Finance from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. I have been a financial advisor for 20 years. I bring strong financial acumen to the position of mayor. In addition, I have volunteered with many Rehoboth nonprofit organizations; Rehoboth Main Street, Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, Rehoboth Art League and CAMP Rehoboth.
Markert, 62: I have a bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's in mass communication from Towson University. I am a CPA; I worked for the state of Maryland for 17 years as an auditor and later the chief of accounting for the Department of the Environment. Later I was the finance director for a variety of nonprofit organizations. I am retired and currently the secretary of the planning commission, appointed in 2009. We bought our home in Schoolvue in Rehoboth in 2004 and became Delaware residents in 2010.
McGuiness, 47: A Rehoboth native, I attended Rehoboth Elementary, junior high and Cape Henlopen High School, class of 1985. I earned bachelor of science degree in biology from Florida Institute of Technology and earned a second bachelors in pharmacy while attending Northeastern University in Boston. My experience includes 18 years on the Rehoboth Beach Main Street board and four previous terms as a commissioner. Chaired the bandstand/special events and personnel committees and was secretary of the Boardwalk committee. Chaired fundraising for July 4th Fireworks for over 17 years! I am running as a nonresident, living in Henlopen Acres – but I consider myself focused on Rehoboth.
Meng, 45: I am a resident candidate and have lived in Rehoboth Beach for over 18 years; it is the only place I live. I don’t have another address. I am originally from Massachusetts where I was a state trooper. I have a degree in criminal justice. For the last 17 years I have owned and operated a bar/ dance club on Rehoboth Avenue Extended. I am an active member of the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company as well.
Myslewski, 68: Rehoboth Beach homeowner and resident. Former Rehoboth business owner of Vespa on Rehoboth Avenue, and currently serve as an international human resource consultant with The World Bank Group in Washington, D.C. Established the Foggy Bottom Historic District Conservancy, Washington, D.C., and served on the Rehoboth Beach Architectural Review Committee. Veteran of the U.S. Army; earned an MBA in marketing, from The George Washington University, and a B.S., Insurance and Real Estate, from The Pennsylvania State University.
Zellers: I’m old enough! I have an AA degree and 34 years experience in the medical field, the last 15 as a research coordinator. We’ve been coming to Rehoboth for 40 years, initially as visitors, but finally as homeowners after purchasing our home in Country Club Estates 15 years ago. I became a registered voter in 2000 and participated in every election. I am seeking reelection as a nonresident commissioner, having served in this capacity since 2008. My work on various committees, including communications, streets and transportation, animal issues, personnel and beautification has allowed me to collaborate on a wide variety of issues facing the city.
Traffic in Rehoboth in the summer is always an issue. Give your solution - near term and long term - for handling the influx of cars in the city's limited amount of space.
Cooper: First, we need to keep summer traffic in perspective; an issue for a relatively short part of the year. I will look for small changes that can help keep traffic flowing, however I am not for drastically modifying our streets or making significant traffic pattern changes that do not make sense on a year-round basis. We must continue to look for strategies that would have fewer vehicles coming into the city. The park-and-ride lot is an example of this; however, at the same time, I am not willing to turn our city into a big bus terminal.
McGlone: Rehoboth Beach is a great tourist destination and as such naturally attracts visitors. With visitors come cars. My ideas comprise many parts. They need discussion and input from the community:
a) Increased parking with a new police station/parking garage vs. a proposed McMansion City Hall.
b) New houses constructed would require more than two off-street parking spaces based on occupancy.
c) Improving opportunities for bicycles and walking.
d) Working with real estate companies to stagger check in days for rentals.
e) Working on schedules for commercial deliveries to businesses.
Markert: Because Rehoboth is so attractive, I do not think there is an upper limit to traffic demand. The city has done well to encourage bicycle and scooter riding and recommending safe routes within the city. It needs to develop a coordinated plan targeting visitor groups. Weekly renters need to be instructed by the property owners to limit the number of vehicles they bring with them. Daytrippers need to be advised on the city website, by Main Street, and by the chamber in a coordinated media campaign that there are convenient ways to get to the beach without a car. When people learn they are better off without a vehicle, everyone will see the benefit.
McGuiness: Clearly, we must focus on finding alternate transit options. I was a supportive with my fellow commissioners to promote the scooter/bike movement, installing more racks and spaces. The idea has taken hold and helps with traffic. In addition, promotion of mass transit is key and perhaps better utilization of our bandstand area for drop off/pick up. Like other resorts, we need to consider options like trolleys and people movers/jitney’s to assist tourists in town without their cars clogging our residential neighborhoods and downtown. Let’s make it attractive for beachgoers to leave their cars outside of town.
Meng: Surprisingly, vehicle traffic in town this season has not seemed as bad as in previous years. Route 1 is another ball of wax entirely, but the number of people riding bikes, scooters and walking has increased dramatically. This is a good thing. Most of the newly developed housing built in the last 10 years has been built in areas outside of town but close by, or within biking distance, and with the completion of the Junction and Breakwater Trail, biking into town is seen as a viable option. We need to keep encouraging the bikers and walkers in the city. I don’t believe Rehoboth needs a parking garage and that it would send the wrong message. “If you build it, they will come.” We are blessed with a beautiful town that lots of people want to visit, so some traffic is unavoidable. There will always be bad traffic on the Fourth of July, so take a deep breath, relax, it will be over soon.
Myslewski: Near term, the city needs to explore doubling daily, weekly and weekend permit fees for nonmetered parking. This would restrict the growing influx of nonresident parking in residential areas. Permit enforcement time might also be extended on nonmetered streets. Residents receive two free transferable parking permits for visiting guests and would not be encumbered by this fee increase. Metered parking should not be increased in support of business owners. Long term, the city must actively promote the use of Park and Ride into the city and the use of bicycles and motor scooters in and around the city.
Zellers: Rehoboth’s popularity continues to grow, which is good because everyone wants to come here, and bad because everyone wants to bring their one, two or more cars. At one square mile, the city is limited in the number of cars it can accommodate. As a member of the streets and transportation committee, my goal is to encourage other ways of getting around – walking, biking, scooters – as well as to better advertise the Park and Ride and the Jolly Trolley. Long term, I support a traffic impact study, specifically to address the high traffic volumes coming into town and to provide options to manage and control that flow through and around the city.
Recently, many large houses have been built in Rehoboth that appear to be used primarily as rental properties. Are you concerned about the number of large homes built for commercial use in residential neighborhoods?
Cooper: I am very concerned about this trend. The neighborhood disturbance created by a number of these houses has induced more residents to contact me than any issue I can recall in the recent past. I firmly believe that residents, both full and part-time, are the foundation of our city. If these residents find that they cannot reasonably, peacefully enjoy their home, they may be induced to leave the city. Rehoboth Beach without its residents would be an empty place.
McGlone: I am concerned about this topic if our community is concerned. Along with the commissioners, I would like to see an annual survey of our community to see if this is an issue for our community. Feedback from our 3,000+ property owners will provide guidance to this topic. I do not think we can react to every issue based on letters from a small number in our community. We need to keep in mind the big picture for our community in our analysis and decisions.
Markert: Recently the planning commission has received numerous complaints from residents who live near some of these properties. Although this may seem new, this is mentioned in the current and prior Comprehensive Development Plan. The planning commission has requested a joint meeting with the mayor and commissioners to be scheduled shortly. The city’s zoning ordinance addresses many aspects of land use. I am optimistic that a thoughtful examination of this issue by the planning commission and the city commission will reveal ways to correct the problems neighbors are experiencing and be fair to renters.
McGuiness: Yes. Noise and pool use have been an issue lately with renters in large neighborhood homes. I would work with the planning commission for a comprehensive approach, identifying options for retaining green space and appropriate amenities and number of bedrooms on a single property. All parties must be brought in, in a think-tank approach to work through this. We cannot sacrifice Rehoboth’s charm and character for the sake of larger tourist accommodations. Our summer season is important to us, but not entirely at the expense of quality of life for property owners and residents.
Meng: Yes, I am very concerned. It seems most of the recent zoning changes have been aimed at preventing these types of houses. The F.A.R., requiring two parking spaces, adjusting the setbacks for lots larger than 50-by-100, even the tree ordinance. This has been like playing Whack-A-Mole. Every time a new ordinance is passed to combat these houses, a new way of achieving the same thing pops up. I think the focus has been misplaced. The problem isn’t what these large-density rental houses look like – most of them are actually quite attractive – the problem is how they are used. When you have 16 to 20 people in a single house, on a single lot, they take up more parking on the street, they generate more trash, they make more noise, and if there is a pool, they are in it every waking minute, and the kids are screaming “Marco…Polo” at the top of their lungs. And since most of these houses are rented weekly, some tenants are unfortunately not as sensitive to their neighbors as they could be. The first step to solving this problem is seeing this as a usage problem, not an architectural one.
Myslewski: There is a growing concern among many residents, including me, about the number of large homes built for short-term rental use in residential neighborhoods. For properties intended for short-term rental, the city should explore two measures: one, require the number of parking spaces to equal the number of bedrooms for new properties, and two, issue rental permits for existing short-term rental properties, and restrict issuance of future permits. The desired outcome should be to have more owner-occupied homes.
Zellers: This surfaced during talks with constituents and does concern me. My commitment is to preserve what makes Rehoboth unique. It is our quality of life, our neighborhoods and communities, our green spaces and beaches that bring people here.
Large rental homes are not inherently problematic – large families need more space. However, large homes, advertised with 8 to 10 master suites, sleeping 15 to 20, with amenities, in my view, are no longer homes, but businesses. Is this what we want in our residential communities? How do these commercial homes affect the quality of life in the neighborhood? How is parking to be addressed? This is definitely a topic for further investigation and discussion.
Dogfish Head or 16 Mile?
Cooper: I will stick to subjects I have reasonable knowledge about. Beer is not one of them.
McGlone: As I do not drink beer, I cannot comment on the beverage. However, Dogfish Head is a great member of the downtown community. Sam and Mariah are cheerleaders for our area and the brewpub attracts beer aficionados from around the country. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for their property in the old Finbar space. I am sure it will be a great contribution to downtown Rehoboth Beach.
Markert: I am not much of a drinker, so I cannot extol the virtues of either brewery. I will say that when I am traveling about the country I am gratified to see our local brands being offered and appreciated, and I find myself having to explain what a dogfish is.
McGuiness: Dogfish, course! We must support our local businesses! And to that end, let me say that I feel it is critical to support our business community along with our residential community in a balancing act that works for everyone. It’s not easy, but we’ve done it in the past and if I am re-elected, we will continue to make certain that the quality of life for residents is protected, as is the economic health of our business community. Achieving that goal warrants a toast with a Dogfish brew!
Meng: Both are great companies and wonderful examples of Delaware entrepreneurial spirit. Both brew excellent beer. But, since I’m a firefighter, if I’m gonna have a beer, I usually have a Responder’s Ale from 16 Mile.
Myslewski: By far the most interesting question posed during this election campaign. Similar to an election, I have always supported and enjoyed the hometown favorite -- Dogfish Head. Since 1995 Sam Calagione has made this city proud of his achievements, and I applaud him. However, in 2009 Brett McCrea and Chad Campbell opened 16 Mile Brewery with Bold Session Ales. Now it is time to also support the newcomers and new flavors/ideas – like me to City elected office! 16 Mile gets my vote this year.
Zellers: Unfortunately, neither – Wine is my poison.