A hearing on the proposed expansion of Fins on Route 1 drew five nearby residents.
Fins is seeking to expand into space previously occupied by a mattress store – creating 40 additional interior seats. It has also asked to expand outside with a 614-square-foot patio with 40 exterior seats.
Residents from Beachaven and the local community protested the application, saying the outdoor expansion would be too noisy, especially late at night. The community, located immediately across the street from the restaurant off Parsonage Road, said the noise would not only be bothersome but would also have a negative impact on property value.
Owner of Fins Ale House Jeff Hamer presented his request for outdoor speakers on the patio. Providing background music, he said, is necessary for the restaurant's Route 1 location. He said the two speakers he would likely be using are eight inches each.
“The idea is to be able to have a conversation outside, while sitting outside. Not to drown out the conversation,” he said.
He said the patio and speakers would be necessary to compete with rival restaurants in the area, which already have patio areas and speakers, such as Big Fish Grill and Applebee's.
Attorney Adam Gerber of Dover, who represented Hamer at the hearing, passed out 572 letters received from patrons supporting the expansion of Fins.
Opponents noted each letter contained the same message with different signatures and addresses. Many letters displayed addresses in Lewes, Milton, Millsboro, and as far away as Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. Only a few addresses in the stack read Rehoboth Beach.
Permanent Beachaven resident Wonda Mackiewicc testified she is concerned about noise. Mackiewicc said her condominium is in the building closest to Fins, and at night, she can hear employees talking behind the restaurant and customers slamming their car doors.
“When it's nice, I like to have my deck doors open. I can hear it,” she said. “My neighbors can hear it.”
Mackiewicc, who is retired, said she loves the food at Fins and has eaten there in the past, but she and her neighbors have to sleep; with the potential noise of a patio and speakers, she doesn't think she can.
“I can't imagine the highway wouldn't be noisier than people talking on a patio,” said Hamer after the hearing. But, he said, he's willing to compromise with the community and be a good neighbor.
Renee Kilpatrick, a member of the board of directors for the Beachaven Association of Unit Owners Inc., attended the meeting as a representative for the community. At the hearing, Kilpatrick suggested Hamer turn off the patio music at a set time around 11 p.m.
“We're just concerned about devaluing our property and noise,” she later said.
Kilpatrick, herself not a permanent resident of Beachaven, said many residents are unable to attend a Wednesday evening hearing because they live elsewhere.
Commissioner John Cordrey chose not to make a decision on the hearing; he will accept comments pertaining to the 572 letters from those opposed to the application at his office in Wilmington until Aug. 27. Cordrey did not say when a decision on the application will be made.