It’s been more than six months since Clear Space Theatre Company has been before Rehoboth officials for a public discussion on its future in the city. However, a Freedom of Information Act request by a property owner has revealed the theater company and city officials have been privately discussing its potential use of Rehoboth Beach Convention Center for the 2021 season since March.
Founded in 2004, Clear Space moved into the old Epworth United Methodist Church property on Baltimore Avenue in 2010. The theater company’s lease expires Dec. 31, 2020.
In anticipation of the lease ending, the theater company first revealed a proposal for a new home at 413, 415 and 417 Rehoboth Ave. during a planning commission meeting in October 2018.
From the beginning, the proposed 25,600-square-foot building has drawn opposition from city residents because of its size, failure to meet parking requirements, and safety problems related to having hundreds of patrons exiting onto a section of Rehoboth Avenue with little lighting.
Mark Betchkal, who owns a house on Sussex Street that abuts the Rehoboth Avenue property to the north, has been one of the vocal critics of the proposal.
According to documents Betchkal provided to the Cape Gazette, Clear Space Executive Director Wesley Paulson, Rehoboth City Manager Sharon Lynn and city employee Steven Perry, who takes convention center reservations, have been discussing the theater company’s use of the convention center at least since March.
In a March email, Lynn says, “I’m happy to assist however we are able to.”
In an April email, Perry informs Paulson the convention center’s 2021 calendar has only a few concrete dates set. But, he continues, there are several long-term clients renting in 2021 at the same time they do every year.
Paulson responds to Perry by saying the theater’s calendar follows the same pattern each year, so the 2019 schedule would be a good reference for planning.
In a May email, after meeting with Perry in person, Paulson said the theater company sometimes has classes, rehearsals and performances on the same day.
In another May email, Paulson told Perry he was working on a draft 2021 schedule to avoid dates for recurring customers.
“So far, things look workable,” he said.
When reached for comment Oct. 15, Paulson said he had no comment.
In an email Oct. 16, Betchkal said he continues to pursue the Clear Space issue because he wants to know what the theater company is up to. He said he found it interesting that while a city committee ponders if the convention center should allow hourly rentals, there’s been no mention Clear Space is interested in renting the space.
Lynn confirmed the city and the theater company have been talking about the 2021 season. She said the city does not have any concerns about conflict of use with other convention center customers, and no dates have been identified as a conflict.
Betchkal isn’t the only person keeping tabs on Clear Space. During a planning commission meeting Oct. 11, City Building Inspector Damalier Molina told planning commission members the city had checked on a company doing soil boring at 415 Rehoboth Ave. because the department had received calls wanting to know if the company had the required business license.
“You can’t get away with anything in this town,” said Molina, when asked why someone would complain about that.