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BeachWalk foes set standard for public comment

January 30, 2018

A recent hearing on the BeachWalk project in Rehoboth Beach packed the city commissioners' room with citizens opposed to the project.
The hearing concerned a legal question: Does the city planning commission have the legal authority to require a project submitted as a condominium to submit plans as a subdivision?

As a legal matter, that question may not be settled. The city commissioners upheld the planning commission decision to require a subdivision plan, but the developer can still take the decision to court.

Opposition to new developments is commonplace in Sussex County, where new subdivisions invariably bring traffic and congestion to already-stressed roads.

Serious traffic concerns were certainly part of the opposition to this plan. Yet what sets this opposition apart are detailed presentations prepared by Rehoboth Beach citizens, who organized a group to defend their city, mounting a petition campaign that garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

These opponents learned early on that common-sense opinions opposing the development would not be enough to sway the planning commission.

That's when these citizens dug in. They filed legal arguments opposing the project and analyzed not only traffic, parking and safety problems with the proposal, but also its environmental impact, its impact on surrounding neighborhoods, and the burden it would place on wastewater infrastructure.

They also analyzed and then challenged numerous assertions and errors presented by the BeachWalk developer - starting with the size of the parcel, misstated as 600,000 square feet, but actually only 335,000 square feet.

So far, citizens have won the day, and that's how it should be in this case. These citizens have taken the concept of public comment to a new level. They did not settle for just saying no. They instead raised specific, well-reasoned arguments showing the project as designed would be hazardous to anyone who lives there and to the entire city of Rehoboth Beach.

We may live in complex, litigious times, but these citizens have risen to the task, and for that we say well done.

 

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.