After more than a year of discussion, Rehoboth Beach commissioners have changed city code related to the calculation of gross floor area in the city’s residential and commercial districts.
During their March 19 meeting, commissioners began with residential construction, specifically single-family and two-family dwelling units. The commissioners voted unanimously in favor of changes to the calculation so that a number of houses built over the past decade would again be code compliant and so those desired architectural features would be allowed into the future. Commissioners accomplished this by creating two lists – one of specific features that count toward gross floor area and one of exclusions.
Features that count toward gross floor area include the floor space of all habitable areas, including basements, that have a finished height above 6-feet-6-inches; covered porches, balconies, decks, patios and unimproved areas; fully enclosed interior courtyards, atria, walkways and corridors; storage and equipment spaces that are roofed, enclosed on all sides and have a finished height at or above 6-feet-6-inches; covered parking, carport, garage, and porte-cochere at or above grade; parking area located underneath finished grade of habitable space; all interior stairwells and stairhalls on all levels above grade; and elevators, elevator equipment rooms and elevator shafts.
Gross floor area exclusions are uncovered decks, balconies, porches and platforms; attics with an access hatch and pull-down stairs where the finished height is less than 6-feet-6-inches; and areas under overhangs of two feet or less.
Prior to passage of this ordinance, City Building Inspector Matt Janis had said the changes bring the code back to its original intent and that local contractors are looking forward to getting back to business as usual.
The second change to gross floor area is related to underground parking. As approved, code now defines underground parking and then excludes areas meeting that definition from the calculation in the commercial districts. Prior to the change, underground parking area was included in the calculation of gross floor area, which affects a project’s floor-to-area ratio and the number of off-street parking spaces required.
City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said the change recognizes that underground parking should not count as space related to parking requirements.
Changes made to wireless facilities code
Commissioners also approved changes to city code related to its wireless facilities ordinance. Generally, the changes amend the ordinance to include additional public notice provisions, and aesthetic and health-related safeguards.
As approved, wireless providers will have to include modeling of radio frequency emissions from each proposed antenna showing compliance with all applicable standards from the Federal Communications Commission; signage at a proposed site will have to be posted within five days of an application; there will be a mailing to every property within 200 feet of a proposed location; and all applications will be posted on the city website including scale drawings, a map of existing and proposed wireless facilities, and a list of all other feasible locations with 100 feet of the proposed site.
A number of these changes came at the request of the city’s environment committee.