Library task force aims to downsize existing facility by a third

Under current proposal, city officials still have to approve change to deed-restricted lot
October 24, 2023

After months of discussion, the Rehoboth Beach Public Library Task Force has decided the best use for the Rehoboth Avenue space is to downsize it by a third.

The Rehoboth Beach Public Library has had one location in downtown Rehoboth Beach since the late 1920s. In February, during budget discussions, library officials announced they would be building a new facility outside the town because a significant majority of users in the service area now live outside city limits. Library officials said they would maintain a presence downtown, but they weren’t sure what that would look like.

In response to concerns raised by city commissioners, a task force was formed, in large part, to ensure the downtown location continues to meet the needs of in-town residents. Early into task force discussions, the group focused on the downtown location. After about half a dozen meetings, the task force turned to Becker Morgan Group, the library’s contracted designer, to come up with a plan.

During an update at a commissioner meeting Oct. 20, library board President Kay Wheatley said the task force had made a decision to use the lot where the library’s existing entrance is and another lot to the east because it already has a second floor and unused space if further expansion is needed.

The library has an address of 226 Rehoboth Ave., but it sits on three lots. The lot farthest west, closest to the Summer House restaurant, was donated to the library by the city and is deed-restricted to always be a library.

Now that the task force has chosen this option, there needs to be a discussion with the city to see if it is willing to change the deed restriction, said Wheatley. Every effort will be made to find a complementary use, and there are no plans to sell any portion of the building, she said.

The design process for how the current location will look hasn’t started yet, but, Wheatley said, she was hoping to allow the library’s architect to begin that work in November. However, when asked what would happen if commissioners took longer to decide the fate of the deed-restricted lot, Wheatley said the library will wait.

Commissioner Don Preston voiced concern the library is moving forward with plans that the public hasn’t been properly made aware of.

Commissioner Patrick Gossett, who represents the commissioners on the task force with Commissioner Francis “Bunky” Markert, said the city can participate in the discussion, but ultimately it doesn’t own the land and won’t be making the final decisions.

Following the update, Wheatley discussed the two options not chosen by the task force. One utilized the deed-restricted lot closest to the Summer House, while the other included the center lot and the deed-restricted lot. The first option didn’t have enough space and the second option didn’t include a second floor, she said.

Mayor Stan Mills said there will be time to discuss releasing the deed restriction during a commissioner workshop in November, with a possible vote during a commissioner meeting later in the month.

As for the new location, which is expected to be off Warrington Road south of Route 24 near the new Beebe Healthcare Specialty Surgical Hospital, Wheatley said the plan is to hire a construction manager in January.


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