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Hit the ‘pause button’ on Bay Mart development

August 11, 2016

As the proposal for the Ocean Bay Mart Inc. development on Coastal Highway works its way through the various review levels of the City of Rehoboth Beach, I have been studying the associated planning and zoning documents. Full disclosure - my interest results from residing on Terrace Road for close to 20 years.

Since the property has been sitting fairly idle during the past two decades, hearing of its possible development was truly exciting. However, to learn that the proposal is for 63 four-to-six-bedroom dwellings to be placed on the tract's 7.7 acres, leaving only 6 percent of the property for roadways, walkways, parking, trash, postal access and any open space, triggers the caution the city has raised over the proliferation of mini hotels.

Is this the best use of this rare, remaining large tract of land, particularly with the forthcoming development of even more condominiums across Coastal Highway at Spring Lake?

The city is on record as expressing keen interest in the Bay Mart site. On page 77 of the city's 2010 Comprehensive Development Plan, (http://www.cityofrehoboth.com/sites/default/files/Scan_74.PDF) Map No. 7 identifies Bay Mart along with a handful of other remaining commercially zoned areas as "prime candidates for a 'design image' treatment" (p. 89.)

It is located on the south end of the city, two blocks away from one of the other "prime candidates" – the elementary school property. With strategic and creative thinking, the planning of these two properties - ensuring the preservation of the school's grounds for recreational use - could result in an exciting southern "gateway" for the City of Rehoboth Beach.

Owners have the right to develop their properties in any way they desire within the zoning regulations established by their community. But might this be a crucial moment to hit the pause button for a meaningful and productive conversation to:

• Understand what the owner's ultimate goals are in developing this property
• Explore what exciting possibilities for the city might lie in this unique piece of real estate
• Identify what incentives might exist to make this a win/win situation for all involved?

I encourage the city's mayor and commissioners to exercise their leadership in exploring with Bay Mart's owners the potential for this property – ideally as a vibrant gateway to the south end of the city of Rehoboth Beach, that can respond to the needs and interests of the city's citizens and visitors for decades to come.

Greig Stewart
Rehoboth Beach

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