Multi-family pools destroying Rehoboth quality of life

September 4, 2014

The title of the ad on the Vacation rentals website reads "Fabulous 8 Bedroom, 8.5 Bath Home, Pool/Jacuzzi, Sleeps 30, 4500 Sq. Feet, Walk To Beach" ... and the descriptive copy goes on to describe this newly constructed behemoth rental property "in a quiet, residential area." Sadly, that "quiet residential area" is my neighborhood here in South Rehoboth Beach.

Can you imagine the cottage next door to your home being torn down and replaced with a hotel? Well, plenty of long-time Rehoboth Beach residents can, and they've been living this reality for the past two years, and it's not pretty.

The secret is out. A couple of local business people have figured out a way to work within the city's building codes and develop what are the equivalent of small hotels in many of Rehoboth Beach's quaint residential neighborhoods with complete disregard for the existing residents.

And more are coming. According to a list circulated at one of several concerned homeowner meetings happening around town this week, the city has issued 31 permits to build pools in Rehoboth Beach proper during the past 30 months. I've watched seven pools be built behind large newly-constructed rental properties within a five-block radius from our home here in residential South Rehoboth Beach alone.

To the best of my knowledge, every pool built in recent memory here in South Rehoboth (except one) has been attached to a multi-family rental property owned and operated as a business by a commercial entity.

When a pool is built to service a multiple people in such close proximity to neighbor properties as we have with standard 50-foot-by-100-foot lots here in Rehoboth Beach, the end product is always the same: noise.

The No. 1 and immediate problem affecting scores of families in South Rehoboth and other neighborhoods throughout our city is the noise being generated by the occupants of these multi-family dwellings because of their swimming pools.

Sound is greatly amplified by water, and the voices that reverberate off these swimming pools are further amplified by bouncing off the back walls of the homes they service. With so many homes in such close proximity to each other, a canyon-like effect is created, and the results are horrific. It's like having a boom-box blasting in your back yard, and we're tired of it.

Of note, the noise problem doesn't necessarily come from swimmers, but rather from anyone who is present around the pool. With multiple families vacationing in one dwelling, whether it's the kids up at the crack of dawn playing out back (poolside), or the adults hitting the jacuzzi after the kids are asleep, or when they return from a late night out on the town, they all create plenty of noise.

One would think that a combination of signage, curfews, and pool covers mandated to be used during hours that swimming is not allowed would take care of the immediate problem. Stiff fines written into the rental agreements for both landlord and tenants would be better yet, and help to safeguard the unacceptable noise compromising the quality of life for resident homeowners. Easy, you say ? Sadly, that's hardly the case.

It's been two years since nine of us (homeowners) signed and hand-delivered a letter to the mayor with a copy to each commissioner explaining our plight and asking for help. I won't include the answer we received from the former city manager in this letter because I don't wish to embarrass the administration; let's just say it was obvious that cronyism is alive and well here in the Nation's Summer Capital. We've been told to just call the police when things get noisy, and truthfully, while no one really wants to constantly do that, we've all called them.

Some of our neighbors believe the city fathers support these commercial operations and see them as a new cash cow. Marketed in New York City and elsewhere with renters paying upwards of $10,000 per week, the city realizes rental taxes from these multi- family buildings approximately two to three times greater than the average Rehoboth Beach rental produces. That's a lot of new money for the city. More visitors to purchase more parking permits and bolster the gross receipts tax are also suspect.

While a litany of other items have arisen around this issue that range from negative impact on existing property values to the city ignoring illegal improvements that violate code made to these commercial dwellings once occupancy permits are issued, residents agree that their quality of life has been severely impacted, that their property values are being negatively impacted, and that an immediate solution to the noise problems must be addressed now, first and foremost.

Rental properties have always been part of the landscape here in Rehoboth, and no one is challenging this. We've lived with seasonal renters for our 25 years as homeowners here without incident. But this is different, and without a swift solution, the charm of our fair city will be gone forever.

Call it what you want, but a large dwelling that sleeps multiple families (up to 30 people) built intentionally as a commercial business entity to operate for business purposes is a hotel and has no right existing in our residential neighborhoods.

This is a very serious issue. If you feel the same, and want to protect your home investment and preserve the tranquil nature of our fair city, let it be known now before it's tooef late. Write your commissioners and the mayor. Better yet, speak with your commissioners, attend city council meetings, and voice your concerns to restore the serenity and quality of life we all came to Rehoboth Beach for in the first place before it is too late and gone forever.

Avrim Topel
Rehoboth Beach


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