Frustration mounts as Clear Space sees more delays

Feb. 5 planning commission meeting canceled with little notice; set to resume Feb. 12
February 9, 2021

Story Location:
Clear Space Theatre Company
415 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

To the great frustration of Clear Space officials and its supporters, a special meeting continuing the public hearing for the theater’s Rehoboth Avenue project was postponed a week.

Clear Space Theatre Company wants to build a new home at 413, 415 and 417 Rehoboth Ave. The project received approval from the Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission in August, but it was appealed to the city commissioners, who decided the planning commission needed to conduct a second public hearing, which took place Jan. 29. At the conclusion of that 3-hour hearing, the planning commission set a continuation date of Feb. 5 for deliberation. The meeting was canceled the morning of the set date, a little after 9 a.m.

In a prepared statement later in the day, Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission Chair Jeffrey Trunzo said it is part of his duty to ensure that the proceedings of the planning commission are conducted in a manner that provides applicants with a neutral panel of commission members who will consider and decide applications that come before the public body.

“Today’s planning commission meeting was canceled because the present circumstances do not allow for an informed conclusion as to whether proceeding with today’s meeting would have jeopardized our deliberations on the Clear Space and Spotlight site plan review applications, possibly creating an appealable issue,” said Trunzo. “Therefore, after much consideration and consultation with the city solicitor, a measured course was determined to be to delay deliberation while certain matters, both quasi-judicial and administrative in nature, are resolved.”

The cancellation of the meeting came as a surprise to Clear Space, which issued a statement questioning the decision prior to Trunzo’s statement.

Clear Space Director of Development  Stephanie Hudson Whitcomb said the meeting was canceled abruptly and without explanation. Yet again, she said, Clear Space is delayed and now without any reason from the city.

“Clear Space Theatre hoped the meeting would complete the site-plan review and conclude with a vote to approve the building plans for Clear Space Theatre and Spotlight Theatre,” said Whitcomb.

In addition to stating a desire to avoid having a decision appealed a second time, Trunzo said, a question was raised about whether written submissions were to be accepted until the end of the work day Feb. 3 or until Feb. 5. After reviewing the Jan. 29 public hearing, it became apparent there was a discrepancy between what was announced at the opening of the hearing and what was announced at the conclusion of the hearing, he said.

“We are all hopeful that we can review and decide applications timely. But it is equally important that we decide applications fairly and thoughtfully,” said Trunzo.

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