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Beach Walk plans need improvements

September 30, 2016

As 10-year residents of Terrace Road, we are extremely pleased to learn that the longtime owner of the deteriorated Bay Mart Shopping Center plans to develop it into a residential community. But we are quite concerned about certain aspects of the development as proposed.

Our concerns center on safety to those within the development, the surrounding neighborhood, and travelers on Route 1 if the property is developed as proposed. We identify three significant hazards and propose a solution.

Currently, there is a traffic light and an entrance from Route 1 to Bay Mart Shopping Center. The traffic light can be controlled by public safety officers, allowing them to stop north-and south-bound traffic on Route 1 and turn into the shopping center.

The developer proposes to prohibit access to the Beach Walk community from Route 1 and move the development's entrance to Terrace Road, which bounds the shopping center on the south. If this were allowed to happen, fire trucks coming from the north would have to pass Terrace Road, make a U-turn at Robinson Drive, turn right onto Terrace, then left into the development. According to the Rehoboth Beach fire chief, the ladder truck would need the entire highway plus the adjoining bicycle lanes and sidewalks to make the turn.

In addition, the fire and police departments currently can control the traffic light to regulate traffic. Without an entrance to the Beach Walk development at the light, they must rely on their sirens alone to negotiate a U turn across on coming traffic, creating a dangerous situation for our public safety personnel and all Route 1 traffic.

The extremely narrow streets in the proposed development – only 20 feet wide – pose an additional hazard. The developer proposes 63 houses on seven-plus acres, most with five to six bedrooms and baths. Off-street parking, with few exceptions, will be no more than two cars per house. It is expected that many owners will rent these properties during the summer months, most likely to renters with multiple cars.

Where will they park? If they park on the 20-foot-wide streets, there will be no way for emergency vehicles to pass, and the Rehoboth police will not be able to enforce any "no parking" homeowners' rules. With virtually no yards and no sidewalks, pedestrians, bicyclers, and children playing on the narrow streets will be at risk as well.

Finally, with the proposed Terrace Road entrance, people staying in the development who drive to the beach or to downtown Rehoboth will turn left on Terrace, right on Blackstone, left on Robinson Drive, and left again onto Bayard Avenue at the south end of the Silver Lake bridge. During the summer, Terrace and Blackstone (both one-way, narrow, without sidewalks and currently with very light vehicular traffic) are filled with pedestrians, strollers and bicycles.

The Blackstone-Robinson intersection is notoriously dangerous, as is the Robinson-Bayard Avenue intersection.

Fortunately, there are solutions. Designing an attractive entrance at the Route 1 traffic light which accommodates safe access to the Beach Walk community, widening the internal streets, and creating a walking/bicycle path (rather than a vehicular entrance/exit) for residents of the development to access Terrace Road, the beach and downtown would be a win-win-win for the development, the neighborhood, and the city.

Peter and Victoria Jennings
Rehoboth Beach

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