After what attorney Glenn Mandalas described as an attempt to change the play at the 99-yard line, the final step in a lengthy legal process for the proposed Starboard Claw restaurant in Dewey Beach concluded April 20 with unanimous approval of its conditional use.
During public comment, Noah Potter, who said he was speaking for his father Steve Potter, owner of a unit at 21 Bellevue St., said he learned about the proposed restaurant from a sign on its door. He said he had a number of concerns and asked when the final vote would take place.
Town Counsel Fred Townsend said commissioners were holding the second and final public hearing on the project, which had been on a number of agendas previously, and that commissioners could vote at that meeting.
Potter brought up concerns residents cited last summer that were previously addressed by the town, including parking, outside congregation, traffic and noise. He said patrons on the restaurant’s second-floor outdoor deck would be at eye level with his father’s windows and suggested a higher barrier.
Commissioner Paul Bauer asked how Bellevue Street residents were notified about the project. Townsend said rezoning request information was sent to property owners within 200 feet. Assistant Town Manager Jim Dedes said the conditional-use application notice was advertised and posted on the town website.
“We have had meetings ad nauseam on this,” Bauer said. “From what I'm hearing from Mr. Potter, this is the first time he's heard about it. The time to bring up all these issues was six months ago. Now we're here at a decision and there's tons of questions, and we need to avoid that whenever possible.”
Town Clerk Ashleigh Hudson said Potter could call her the next day to confirm the town had his correct address for contact purposes.
Mandalas, representing applicant Starboard Claw Land Company, said restaurant representatives met with neighbors last summer to address concerns. Property rezoning occurred, the comprehensive plan and town code were amended, the off-street parking requirement was waived, planners recommended conditional-use approval, and notices were given, Mandalas said.
“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Potter didn’t see those notices or didn’t focus on them, but there has been a lot reported in the paper and a lot noticed,” Mandalas said.
Tiered plantings and a fence will be on the east side of the property to protect privacy and control noise and light, Mandalas said, and outdoor music is not permitted. The proposed ordinance has 23 conditions that have all been developed through public meetings to address concerns, he said.
“When the off-street parking requirement was raised, it allowed our team to pivot and go from what was a nonconforming building that violated setbacks and didn’t provide some of the spaces that we’re able to provide to now an entirely code-compliant project,” Mandalas said.
Hammerheads will be demolished, and the proposal will remove vehicle traffic from that intersection and encourage people to walk, bike or use scooters. Research shows that off-street parking leads to traffic congestion, he said.
Noah Potter said the problem was on the north, not the east side, of Starboard Claw, and mitigation efforts described would not help his father. Steve Potter said a prison-like slatted fence could shield his home from the restaurant decks.
Mandalas said the building’s north side has an ADA entrance, seating, and scooter and bike parking, and a fence high enough to block second-floor views from across the street would be unattractive. The decks and proposed structure are code-compliant and permitted, he said.
“This is the only owner on that side of the street that has raised this sort of concern and it does come really at the 99-yard line after we’ve been through a lot,” Mandalas said.
The proposed north-side seating and bike and scooter parking area are not technically code compliant, he said, as they straddle the town and applicant property. The town has discretion to allow construction of those items or could remove them as well, he said.
Dedes said the town has three parking spaces on the north-side corner that are hazardous because parked cars jut out into the street. He said the town manager may want to limit parking on two spaces adjacent to the corner.
Commissioner David Jasinski said a statement should be added to the ordinance noting those parking spaces are in the town’s right of way and could be repurposed. Dedes cautioned that outdoor seating could cause patron space to go over 4,000 square feet and trigger parking requirements.
Bauer said the area is historically noisy and he couldn’t imagine the restaurant being louder than live music at the Bottle & Cork or Jimmy’s directly across the street. Commissioner Gary Persinger said outside seating is clearly allowed by town code and proposed noise-reduction efforts are also consistent with code.