Everyone’s a loser in Clear Space debacle
Clear Space Theatre’s announcement earlier this week that it is abandoning plans for a proposed theater near the circle on Rehoboth Avenue is a disappointing end to what could have been a beautiful addition to downtown Rehoboth Beach. After nearly four years, there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Since it was first introduced in late 2018, the Cape Gazette has supported Clear Space’s vision for a new home on Rehoboth Avenue. It still does. One building or two, a new, year-round, state-of-the-art theater would have only added to a tourist destination that was already popular before being recently thrust onto the world’s stage. However, time and time again, theater leaders tasked with getting this project off the ground were called out for appearing to be negotiating approval of the theater behind closed doors. It was a strategy that brought much of the unwanted scrutiny from the city’s citizenry.
Similar to other proposed projects in town, a small group of concerned citizens, with lots of retirement time and a knowledge of the legal system, was going to argue against this project until there were no further options. This group of citizens can pitch it how they want, but it’s clear they were offended by Clear Space’s behind-the-scenes negotiating tactics and were going to do everything in their power to bring an end to the project.
As for the city, the planning commission bungled the first site plan approval by not properly noticing the public hearing. When citizens appealed that approval, city commissioners didn’t even get to the hearing because of the noticing issues. Then, on the advice of their legal council, city commissioners delayed court proceedings by months when they chose to argue what constituted the record of the second appeal hearing by not including the site plans the planning commission approved. Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of Clear Space.
Lots of fingers will be pointed about why this theater isn’t coming, but Clear Space, citizens and city officials all share in the blame. In the end, everyone loses.