It took the threat of a lawsuit, but Agave has been granted a license agreement to put its trash dumpsters and propane tank on Wilmington Avenue in Rehoboth.
During a special meeting May 24, Rehoboth commissioners approved a license agreement by a 4-1 vote. The agreement allows Agave, which will front Rehoboth Avenue, to put two trash dumpsters and a propane tank in the city right-of-way on Wilmington Avenue at a cost of $177 annually – $1 for each square foot of encroachment. As part of the agreement, all three will be enclosed.
The threatened lawsuit from Agave was the reason for the special meeting. Commissioners held an executive session prior to the vote to receive legal advice from City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas.
The vote comes after six months of city meetings on the issue. In December, commissioners granted Agave Tequila Bar and Restaurant owners Chris McKeown and Mike Firetti a permit of compliance for a two-story building with 239 seats. As part of the discussion during that meeting, the two businessmen say they were led to believe by commissioners a license agreement would be granted in the future. In March, Firetti went back before the commissioners to formalize the agreement, but ultimately withdrew the application after Commissioners Stan Mills and Pat Coluzzi raised concerns about a new construction project being given special treatment. In April, by a 4-2 vote, commissioners formally denied the application.
As before, Mills continued to oppose the license agreement. He said typically, license agreements have been used as a way for the city to formally recognize an encroachment from an existing structure. He said Agave submitted a second set of plans to the city with the dumpsters and propane tank on the property, so he knows it can work.
Coluzzi and Commissioner Dick Byrne cast the two votes that changed from before. Commissioners Lisa Schlosser and Steve Scheffer voted in favor at both meetings. Mayor Paul Kuhns recused himself on the matter and Commissioner Toni Sharp, who voted against the agreement in April, was absent at the recent meeting.
Byrne said after reviewing the tape from the Decemeber meeting, it was clear Agave acted in good faith when designing the restaurant.
Coluzzi said she expects Agave to be a good neighbor and do the right thing, which was to put the trash and propane on its property.
Prior to the vote, former Planning Commissioner Jan Konesey spoke against the license agreement. She said fair and equitable treatment means treating Agave like everyone else who applies for a new construction permit.
Former Commissioner Walter Brittingham said he was concerned the normal permitting process has not been followed. He said Agave should first have gotten a building permit.
Representatives from Agave did not attend the special meeting, but in an email the day after, May 25, Firetti said, on behalf of himself and McKeown, he thanked the commissioners for their vote.
Firetti addressed the second set of drawings given to the city, saying they were inadvertently included in the bundle provided for submission.
“Ultimately it was my mistake for not checking them prior to submission, and for that reason I accept full responsibility and apologize for the confusion it caused the city,” he said.
Firetti said he and McKeown were concerned enough about Agave’s future in Rehoboth that they purchased two abutting properties at the gateway to Rehoboth Beach on Route 1, which currently house The Fractured Prune, The Latino Market and Mr. Copy. With the city’s affirmative vote, Firetti said Agave has elected to remain in the city and improve those properties to their best use at some point in the future.
Firetti said moving forward they will work closely with city officials to ensure a groundbreaking in the third quarter of 2019, and barring any significant weather delays, he said he expects Agave in Rehoboth to be open near spring 2020.
“Our good neighbor reputation in Lewes is exceptional, and we intend to be exceptional neighbors in Rehoboth and all future neighborhoods as our growth continues outside of Delaware,” said Firetti.