Rehoboth Beach started working on its state-mandated 2020 Comprehensive Development Plan in December 2018, and while there has been a lot of data collected, the city’s planning commissioners are growing increasingly frustrated that after nearly three years, they still haven’t seen a rough draft of the document.
That frustration came to a head during a planning commission meeting Sept. 10, after Debbie Pfeil, a planning manager for KCI, the consultant hired by the city to help navigate the document-creation process, gave the group an update on the plan. The document was originally due 14 months ago, but for various reasons – a change of administration, COVID, mapping discrepancies – the city has received two year-long extensions. It now faces a hard deadline of July 2022.
Commissioner Jim Ellison was the first to voice his concerns, but as soon as he did, fellow Commissioners Stephen Kauffman, Rachel Macha and Lee Weber did, too. Ellison said understood there are ongoing data collecting and issues related to mapping, but he didn’t understand why the planning commission couldn’t start wading through other sections like visions, values and goals.
“I think we’re in trouble,” he said, adding that he didn’t think there was going to be enough time for public participation.
In response, Pfeil said she and her team have yet to produce a rough draft, because they were told by Mayor Stan Mills, City Manager Sharon Lynn and City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas to stop working on the drafts and fix mapping discrepancies between what Sussex County and the city have on record. In May, during another update, Pfeil reported that a mapping analysis of city and county records found 133 discrepancies.
In an email Sept. 13, Mayor Stan Mills said the city is asking everyone – planning commission members, city commissioners and the public – to be understanding and patient about the delay in releasing an updated draft of the CDP.
Explaining why the team from KCI was told to stop work on the rough draft, Mills said assessing and correcting mapping issues was critical and needed to be addressed first because it may have impacted how the CDP was developed. Work on the draft did not stop, but continued, as time permitted, while mapping issues were being addressed, he said.
Addressing concerns related to not enough public participation, Mills said the pending updated CDP will reflect public input solicited from business, community and visitor surveys completed at the end of October 2019. This data forms the basis of the updated CDP as developed by the city’s CDP consultants, he said.
“Neither planning commission members nor the mayor and commissioners have had an opportunity for significant input, but I am confident that all will in due course,” said Mills.
In response to the planning commission’s concerns, Mills scheduled a special joint meeting with the board of commissioners and the planning commission for 2 p.m., Monday, Sept. 20; the agenda calls for an update on the plan and the path moving forward.