Dewey Beach commissioners unanimously approved a request Sept. 10 to rezone a Bellevue Street property from residential to business, setting into motion a conditional-use approval process for a new restaurant, Starboard Claw, in place of the current Hammerheads on Coastal Highway.
Town Counsel Fred Townsend said redevelopment plans were not before council that night; plans described were meant only to provide context in determining whether the property is suitable for business zoning classification.
Attorney Glenn Mandalas, representing restaurateurs Steve “Monty” Montgomery and Keith “Toastie” Kirk of Starboard Claw, requested the zoning change with the ultimate goal of combining the property at 26 Bellevue St. with the Hammerheads property.
Mandalas said the Bellevue property was zoned commercial in the town’s 2007 comprehensive development plan. If rezoning is approved, he said, his clients will file for conditional-use approval and apply to town officials to consolidate the two properties.
The property is surrounded by businesses, Mandalas said, and rezoning 26 Bellevue would align it with other properties already zoned commercial. Other businesses and lots are farther into the commercial zone than 26 Bellevue, Mayor Dale Cooke said.
Several Bellevue Street residents said they supported the restaurant concept and trusted Montgomery’s intention to be a good neighbor, but were concerned about traffic, car and bicycle parking, additional people, and safety on the already busy street. One speaker said he understood those concerns will be addressed during the conditional-use approval process.
Cooke asked Townsend what the possible negative effects of rezoning could be; Townsend said commissioners need to consider if the property, which adjoins an existing business, is appropriate for commercial use. Any allowed business could occupy the property in the future, Townsend said.
Assistant Town Manager Jim Dedes said the town planning and zoning commission voted unanimously to recommend commissioners approve the rezoning and amend the comprehensive plan zoning map accordingly.
The town is concerned about many issues that were raised, particularly pedestrian safety, Commissioner Gary Persinger said. Any future business owners would have to go through the same conditional-use process as the current owners do, Persinger said.
Commissioner David Jasinski said the applicants are asking for equity in the zoning district terms of the two properties. Commissioner Bill Stevens said he had previously assumed the property was zoned commercial already, due to its proximity to Hammerheads. Commissioner Paul Bauer said planning commissioners need to review residents’ concerns that were provided to council. Cooke said rezoning is proper for the neighborhood.
The next step, Dedes said, is for the applicant to file a conditional-use application that follows town code and will be presented to council, whose members would then refer the application to the planning and zoning commission for a public hearing. The application would then return to council for another public hearing, he said.
At that point, the applicants’ plans will be available for public review, Townsend said. The lot consolidation would be an administrative rather than legislative act, he said.