The Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission unanimously ruled the proposed 63-unit development known as BeachWalk is a subdivision, throwing the future of the project into confusion.
“If it looks like a subdivision and it smells like a subdivision, then, to me, it is a subdivision,” said Commissioner Jan Konesey.
Commissioner Harvey Shulman said the proposed condominium development meets the language of the city’s subdivision code.
“It appears to be just like a single-family development,” he said.
Commissioner Brian Patterson said as proposed, BeachWalk would have an adverse impact on neighboring property owners.
“It’s very clear it is a subdivision,” he said.
The commission’s ruling is a victory for residents of Rehoboth’s Terrace Road, who have opposed the plan for its effects on traffic and safety. BeachWalk developer Keith Monigle proposed to close the Route 1 entrance to the property, now occupied by the Rehoboth Beach Plaza shopping center, which would require southbound vehicles to make a U-turn on Route 1 to reach the property.
During an Oct. 21 public hearing, Carol Tello, a resident of Terrace Road, passionately argued BeachWalk was trying to claim they were exempt from the zoning and subdivision laws of the city.
“This is an end run. Applicant makes no credible argument to the contrary,” she said.
BeachWalk attorney Dennis Schrader argued that Beach Walk was a condominium because it is one parcel with multiple owners. BeachWalk proposed 58 single-family units and five multifamily units on a single lot. Although the plan called for single-family detached homes, developer Keith Monigle did not intend to subdivide the parcel into individual lots.
Tello said of all the condominium projects in the city, almost all of them are single buildings or townhouses.
“There’s nothing magical about a condominium. Ownership has no bearing on the use of the land. If we follow applicant’s reasoning, the subdivision laws would not apply to any development. Such a result is absurd,” she said.
Although other homeowners on Terrace Road and nearby Silver Lake Shores did not speak at the Oct. 21 hearing, several signed legal briefs decrying increased density, traffic and safety concerns, parking problems, lack of open space and sidewalks and narrow streets. At a prior hearing on the project in August, police and fire officials also spoke out against the plan to close off access to the property from Route 1 and force vehicles to make a U-turn on Route 1.
After the meeting, Tello said, “I think people were pleased at the result. We’re very grateful we got such support.”
Exactly what BeachWalk’s developers will do is undecided. The commission gave them 30 days to decide how they would like to proceed. City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said the developers could either refile as a major subdivision, appeal the commission’s ruling to the city commissioners or to court or withdraw the application. Part of the commission’s ruling was to table the application until Schrader and Monigle determine how they would like to move forward. Schrader said he, Monigle and the project engineers would meet later this week to decide what course to take.
If BeachWalk were to file as a major subdivision, the application would be subject to site-plan review. However, requirements for a major subdivision are more stringent for street design, setbacks and open space, whereas a site-plan review considers only effect of a development on city residents’ health, safety and welfare. The site-plan review process also applies for developments built on large tracts of land, and BeachWalk’s 7.75-acre parcel qualifies the project for site-plan review.