Dewey commissioners table decision on zoning changes

Another hearing and possible vote to be set on north end requirements
November 27, 2020

After almost two years of meetings and research by Dewey Beach planning commissioners resulted in a host of proposed zoning changes, town council debated the issue for another two hours Nov. 13 before tabling discussion for a future meeting.

Planner Rick Judge said the commission was tasked with simplifying parts of the zoning code for easier enforcement by building officials, and addressing concerns about overbuilding in the north end.

Planners proposed setting a maximum home size of 4,000 square feet on lots smaller than 7,500 square feet in the NR district, and a maximum home size of 5,200 square feet on lots larger than 7,500 square feet. 

The maximum number of stories would go from 2.5 to 3 with a minimum roof pitch of 4/12; roof decks would be prohibited, and tiered setbacks would no longer be required. Minimum setback requirements for a side yard abutting a side street would be reduced from 15 to 8 feet. 

During the public hearing, residents commented for and against different aspects of the proposed ordinance. Some favored preserving the character of the town’s north end and limiting house size while others said reducing square footage from 5,000 to 4,000 is too much; another commenter said keep zoning as is.

One resident proposed a type of grandfathering arrangement; Town Attorney Fred Townsend said subjecting some people to certain rules but not others is, at best, problematic.

After Commissioner Paul Bauer’s motion to send the ordinance back to the planning commission failed without a second, Commissioner Gary Persinger said the motion was premature; he asked if commissioners could extend the hearing, which Townsend affirmed.

Commissioner David Jasinski said planners provided town council with a product they voted for as a best compromise. He suggested commissioners come to a consensus regarding some potential changes and work with Townsend on revisions.

Commissioner Bill Stevens said he agreed it would be unfair to send the ordinance back to planners after all their work. He said the town seems divided, and that he didn’t want to infringe on property owners’ rights, for example, by asking cottage owners to forgo future property values for the sake of others who like the cottage view. 

Townsend said it was apparent commissioners were not ready to vote. He said they could table consideration of the ordinance and in the meantime submit comments to him so he could propose alternatives. Commissioners can reconvene after noticing a new public hearing and publishing alternative provisions, Townsend said. 

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