Beach Walk will set dangerous precedent
The following letter was sent to the Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission, with a copy submitted to the Cape Gazette for publication.
I am writing to highlight a major public safety issue with the BeachWalk project.
As Fire Chief Chatham Marsch testified, there is a huge issue getting fire equipment to the site with the proposed entrance on Terrace Road. Even if the developer can address that issue satisfactorily, the current design with narrow private cartways that wind their way through to 58 separate single-family homes would be in violation of the Delaware state fire regulation, which reads: "In the case of one or two family dwellings emergency service access shall be provided in such a manner so that emergency apparatus will be able to locate within 100 feet from the street to the primary entrance."
In the City of Rehoboth Beach it would fall to the city to see that such access is maintained on a continuous basis. The 20-foot- wide cartways of BeachWalk do not constitute a street in this regulation, both because they are not up to code for a street and they are private. In fact, Police Chief Keith Banks recently confirmed to the planning commission that the city did not have the authority to enforce traffic or parking violations, thereby ensuring safe access at all times on these private cartways.
Additionally, for the city to trust a condominium association to enforce parking and access rules it has yet to write would be a huge leap of faith. This failure to ensure access places an enormous liability burden on the city, and puts the public's safety at risk, not just in that development but in the surrounding neighborhood as well.
Mayor Sam Cooper has recognized the importance of the fire safety provision that requires that a residence's primary entrance be located within 100 feet from the street. In a recent mayor and commissioners meeting, he introduced the topic, and committed to return with a more complete proposal in hand.
The developers have argued that this project will not set any precedent because the city will never see a piece of property this large again. This is a false argument. Courts will look at decisions made previously, regardless of whether or not lot sizes are exactly alike. In fact, another petitioner to the board of adjustment used the BOA's own decision on Beach Walk as part of their argument at its very next meeting. The decisions you make on this development will set precedents for all future development.
I urge the planning commission to make this Delaware state fire prevention regulation a priority in the Site Plan Review for the proposed BeachWalk community. Failure to do so not only ignores existing state law, but sets the stage for future developments where similar street designs become the norm. Thank you for your attention.