In a sign of the times, beginning with the swearing-in of the city’s 2020 election winners Stan Mills, Patrick Gossett and Jay Lagree, Rehoboth Beach conducted its organizational meeting virtually Sept. 18.
Mills defeated former Mayor Paul Kuhns, while Gossett and Lagree defeated challengers Rachel Macha and Hugh Fuller in August. After being sworn in, Mills commented on how this is an important moment for the city, but also how he saw opportunity for the future. He then presented his list of officers for the board, which was approved unanimously. Commissioner Pat Coluzzi will serve as vice president, Gossett will serve as secretary, City Clerk Ann Womack will be assistant secretary, Paula Simpson will serve as treasurer and Priscilla Smith will serve as assistant treasurer.
A significant portion of the meeting was spent discussing possible changes to city code related to gross floor area and the city’s wireless communication ordinance, but both of those subjects are expected to be on the Monday, Oct. 5 workshop agenda for further discussion. In both cases, City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said he is expecting to have material for the commissioners to discuss at that meeting.
For the most part, the new mayor and two new commissioners were on a similar page with the sitting commissioners. For example, in addition to board officers, commissioners unanimously approved the awarding of a paving contract in the amount of $368,000 for the city’s street paving program and set a date of Thursday, Nov. 12, for an appeal hearing on Clear Space Theatre Company’s site-plan approval. However, when Mills unveiled his list nominations for committees, three of the sitting commissioners said they were disappointed with the proposed removal of Planning Commission Chair Rick Perry. In Perry’s place, Mills has nominated former Planning Commissioner Brian Patterson. The planning commission votes on the chair.
Coluzzi said she was very disappointed with Mills’ decision to not reappoint Perry. Citing the work done on the city’s comprehensive development plan and progress made on other projects, she said now is not the time for new leadership.
“Taking him out at this point is unfortunate,” said Coluzzi, who was supported in her comments by Commissioners Richard Byrne and Edward Chrzanowski.
Commissioner Susan Gay said she had similar concerns last year when four new members were placed on the planning commission. Nevertheless, she said, the planning commission had a productive year this past year, suggesting the turnover isn’t as important as she thought.
Mills said the decision was hard, but ultimately his. He said his election shows a majority of the voters like his vision for Rehoboth, so he’s nominated people for committees that he thinks will reflect that vision. In addition to Perry, Mills has also chosen to not reappoint Mark Hunker, whose eligibility to be on the board has been questioned since Kuhns nominated him last year. Mills nominated Jan Konesey, a former city commissioner and planning commissioner, for the board of adjustment. Mills said he expects to vote on committee appointments during a special voting meeting following the Oct. 5 workshop.
During the election cycle this summer, Mills, Gossett and Lagree ran on pledges of increased transparency and better communication. All three also touted their previous experience as commissioners as reason to vote for them.
In an ironic turn of events, a set of meeting minutes from a commissioner workshop Aug. 6, 2018, was approved during the meeting. Mills, Gossett and Lagree were all on the board then, while the four sitting commissioners weren’t. In a unanimous 2-0 vote, Mills and Gossett approved those minutes from over two years ago. Lagree is marked as absent from the meeting on the city’s website.
In an email Sept. 21, Mills chalked up the approval of those minutes to a matter of coincidence.
“Minutes are a laborious effort,” said Mills. “We need to be mindful that we have archives of audio and video recordings of meetings, so anyone wanting to access can do so until the minutes are approved.”