The Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission is unanimous in its praise of the concept for the proposed expansion of the Avenue Inn on Wilmington Avenue.
The problem is the city zoning code.
Planning commission Chairman Preston Littleton said, “I want to make this project happen. What would be required to make this project happen?
Building inspector Terri Sullivan said the project has a number of issues forbidden by the city zoning code. The expansion needs a handicapped parking space on the street-level, she said, plus, the street parking lot and the hotel were under different limited liability companies.
Plans for the expansion include a stair tower for access to the upper floors. Sullivan said city code only allows one stair tower over 42 feet and the Avenue Inn already has a tower serving the existing building.
Finally, she said, the proposed addition encroaches into city stepback requirements. Per city code, commercial buildings at least 14 feet high must stepback away from the street at a 30 degree angle. A building cannot encroach into that angle, which Sullivan said the proposed expansion does.
Littleton said there are three ways the Avenue Inn could address the zoning issues: through a variance before the Board of Adjustment, a code change by the city commissioners or by changing the plans.
Also at issue is bringing ownership of the various entities under one roof. The existing Avenue Inn is owned by Avenue Associates LLC, while the properties where the expansion will be on is owned under the name Avenue Associates 2, although both entities are owned by the same people: Alex Moore; his wife, Kendra; and Ken Simpler Jr.
Littleton said the ownership must be clarified before a preliminary review can move forward.
City consultant Kyle Gulbranson said the most serious issue is stormwater runoff from the site going into the street and into storm drains. The planning commission has identified runoff from construction areas as the greatest threat to the city’s lakes.
Alex Moore, co-owner of the Avenue Inn, said the expansion is in keeping with the vision of Rehoboth’s comprehensive development plan to make Wilmington Avenue’s commercial area more attractive.
Plans call for an 8,000-square-foot addition that will cover two lots adjacent to the hotel, currently occupied by Planet X Café and the former Cypress restaurant. The expansion would include 28 new rooms, restaurant and retail space and an underground parking garage. Moore said the hope is for the expansion to be ready by April 2016.
Littleton told the Moores and Simpler to bring in a second set of plans that meet the zoning requirements in time for the commission’s Friday, Sept. 12 meeting.
“We are encouraged that things are happening. You’re not coming to a hostile group,” Littleton said. “We’re thrilled there is some positive development going on there.”
The Avenue Inn is the first project subject to the city’s site-plan review process, passed by the city commissioners in 2012, giving the planning commission authority to hold public review of large-scale developments. The hotel was originally scheduled for a preliminary review, the first step of the formal site-plan review process, but that meeting was instead a concept review after the outstanding zoning issues came up. The Avenue Inn’s owners requested the concept review.
The hotel was granted a variance by the board of adjustment July 28 from the floor-to-area ratio and lot coverage requirements.