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Letter: Everyone should participate in Rehoboth CDP update

January 11, 2019

The following letter was sent to the Rehoboth Beach Mayor and Commissioners, with a copy submitted to the Cape Gazette for publication.

I am writing following a Dec. 21, 2018 report in the Cape Gazette on the new Comprehensive Development Plan for Rehoboth Beach. It raises disturbing questions on why and how the traditional public input in this crucial planning process - mandated by state law - seems manipulated and minimized.

Over the years, I have observed, and participated in, citizen involvement in the CDP as a vital contributor to Rehoboth Beach’s physical, environmental and political evolution. Crucial issues of zoning, density and growth were debated. The resulting CDP consensus created a long-term perspective that has contributed significantly to our present quality of life.

There are several issues raised by the article and reported statements from an out-of-state consultant hired to manage the process:

1. Rehoboth Beach’s CDP now, reportedly, seems to be built on a template using the consultant firm’s prior work with other municipalities. I would suggest their experience has little to match the distinctive beach/boardwalk/neighborhood/seasonal tourist business tradition of Rehoboth Beach; and, as well, our rare inclusive political structure allowing homeowners who are not full-time residents to vote and actively participate.  

2. The consultant, reportedly, made the observation that the number of questions for citizens here would be limited because the company’s experience showed that people would not respond to long questionnaires. In point of fact, history shows Rehoboth Beach homeowners and voters are both highly intelligent and highly involved. This also raises concerns that deliberately minimized questionnaires could be used to discourage participation, and even influence results.

3. The consultant, reportedly, now seems to be first building from a base of input from city officials and commissions, etc. rather than from community sources. And from “data.” It was suggested there would be limited CDP public hearings. This is upside-down democracy.

In the past, the CDP has gone through a productive set of small meetings, which helped build a sense of community and ensured the CDP would accurately reflect the vision of residents, homeowners and businesses. The mayor and city commissioners need to step in immediately to restore confidence that the CDP process is still honestly brokered, broad-based and representative.    

Stan Heuisler
Rehoboth Beach

 

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