Rehoboth Beach set a new standard for demolition permits issued in 2019, with 34.
The city broke the previous high of 30 demolition permits issued in October, set in 2017 and 2016, and then added onto it with three more in November – 302 Scarborough Ave., 408 Scarborough Ave., 209 Laurel St. There were no permits issued in December, but there have been two since the turn of the year – 216 Hickman St. and 213 Stockley St.
Statistics show, that in 2019, more than 70 percent of the demolition permits, 24, were for homes and structures south of Rehoboth Avenue. The percent drops the further back the information goes, but not by much. Since 2016, of 123 demolition permits issued, 81 of them have been south of Rehoboth Avenue.
Local builder Randy Burton said he isn’t surprised by the number of permits in 2019 or where the majority are located. In an interview Jan. 15, He said many homes in the Country Club Estates neighborhood, which are old Nanticoke Homes that can’t be easily, or sensibly, renovated.
Burton said another reason for more demolitions in south Rehoboth is environmental factors. He said people pay a premium to live in the northern part of town, The Pines.
“There’s a completely different vibe between these two sections of town,” said Burton.
Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns’ house is a stone’s throw from a number of the south Rehoboth demolitions. In an email Jan. 16, he said his house was built in 1941 and he’s done three renovations. Even if he could have seen the demolitions coming to his neighborhood, Kuhns said he wouldn’t have chosen to have a home in another area of town.
It just so happens the southern part of town has experienced the majority of demolitions in the past few years, he said, declining to identify a specific reason.
Burton’s company, Randall-Douglas, was presented a 2019 Cottage & Town Award from Rehoboth Beach Main Street in spring 2019 for the renovation of 10 Oak Ave. At the time, he commended property owners Mark and Janice Hanson for sticking with the renovation project and not demolishing the old home.
More recently, Burton said the city doesn’t make it easy for homeowners who want to renovate instead of demolishing. For example, he said in the case of Oak Avenue, the city wouldn’t let the homeowners lift the house and put in a new foundation without bringing the house up to code. This is one of the city’s original meeting houses, moved to Oak Avenue nearly 70 years ago, he said. In the end, said Burton, to not demolish, the owners had to dig out the old foundation – without raising the house – and install the new foundation.
Rehoboth is losing its character, said Burton, so the city should create incentives for renovating instead of demolishing. In most cases, owners aren’t going to want to spend a bunch of extra money or wait, he said.
Kuhns said incentives to renovate older homes are difficult to provide because building code regulations are continuously changing.
Burton credited the city with recently passing an ordinance giving the city’s building officer the power to grant administrative variances of up to 12 inches for existing houses.
The city also instituted another recent change – stormwater protection measures during construction that disturbs more than 1,000 square feet of land. Previously, the measures were only required by the Sussex County Conservation District if a project disturbed more than 5,000 square feet. The measures are supposed to apply to projects that already were under construction when the ordinance was passed in November.
Considering that it is a new ordinance, Kuhns said he thought the city is enforcing the changes consistently and improvements are being made.
The majority of demolitions in recent years may be in south Rehoboth, but they are a city-wide trend. Kuhns said the city will continue to see large numbers of demolitions as long as the market will support them.
It appears the remodeling of southern Rehoboth will continue. As of Jan. 15, Zillow.com had 61 properties for sale within the town limits of Rehoboth Beach; 33 of them were south of Rehoboth Avenue.
Permits issued annually, since April 2012:
- 2012: 14
- 2013: 15
- 2014: 23
- 2015: 23
- 2016: 30
- 2017: 30
- 2018: 27
- 2019: 34
- 2020: 2
Permits issued by month, since April 2012:
- January – 18
- February – 8
- March – 22
- April – 8
- May – 6
- June – 3
- July – 9
- August – 42
- September – 28
- October – 26
- November – 17
- December – 11