Months into a second set of public hearings, Clear Space Theatre Company continues to wait for the Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission to make a decision on the site plan for its proposed Rehoboth Avenue home. However, when a decision is made, the theater now knows it also has funding in place to get started.
Clear Space wants to build a new venue at 413, 415 and 417 Rehoboth Ave. The proposed project includes two buildings – a 14,968-square-foot, 256-seat traditional theater and a 9,979-square-foot rehearsal theater. To help fund the $8.8 million project, Clear Space applied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a community facilities loan worth $4.8 million. The USDA’s local Rural Development office issued a Finding of No Significant Impact Feb. 9, which paves the way for the loan.
In a letter to Clear Space, Charles Mikula, Rural Development environmental coordinator for Delaware and Maryland, said the proposed project will not significantly affect the quality of the human environment. The letter goes on to say the findings must be published in a newspaper of general circulation.
That notice, published Feb. 19 in the Cape Gazette, says the project would have no significant impact to water quality, wetlands, floodplains, land use, aesthetics, transportation, or human health and safety. The notice says the proposed project will have no adverse effect on resources listed, or eligible for listing, on the National Register of Historic Places. The notice also says the proposed project is not likely to affect federally listed threatened and endangered species or designated critical habitat, and would not disproportionately affect minority or low-income populations.
“No other potential significant impacts resulting from the proposed project have been identified,” said the notice. “[Rural Development] is satisfied that the environmental impacts of the proposed project have been adequately addressed.”
One of the potential impacts associated with the project was the possible razing of the house at 413 Rehoboth Ave. As part of the federal application process, an environmental assessment was conducted, and the house – known as the Joseph House – was designated as a rare surviving example of a beach bungalow. The designation meant Clear Space was required to try to preserve the structure. Ultimately, Rehoboth resident Tom Kelly will move the bungalow from Rehoboth Avenue to an empty lot on Lincoln Street near the city’s public works garage.
Clear Space Executive Director Wesley Paulson said the theater is pleased with the Finding of No Significant Impact, which cleared the project’s final hurdle before the loan could be approved.
“We look forward to seeing the Joseph House moved and then taking the next steps to start construction on our new theatre,” said Paulson, in an email Feb. 19.
The Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission is scheduled to resume deliberation of the proposed project at 11 a.m., Friday, Feb. 26.