One Rehoboth Hotel needs flood map revision

Site-plan review delayed while developer awaits federal approval
January 20, 2024

Story Location:
One Rehoboth Avenue Hotel
1 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

The Jan. 12 preliminary site-plan review of the proposed One Rehoboth Avenue Hotel in Rehoboth Beach was delayed after planning commissioners decided to wait until developers receive formal approval from the federal government on a revision to the flood zone map.

The proposed hotel has been on the city’s radar for a couple of years. The owner of the property is One Rehoboth Avenue LLC, which is a partnership between Grotto Pizza and Onix Group, a real estate developer from Kennett Square, Pa. As proposed, the hotel would have ground-level retail, 60 rooms on three floors above and two levels of underground parking. The hotel stretches along the Boardwalk from Rehoboth Avenue to Baltimore Avenue, and encompasses Grotto Pizza on the Boardwalk, the Sirocco Hotel, the former Dolle’s Candyland property and Kohr Bros. ice cream.

The planning commission conducted a concept review with the development team in November 2022. The city’s board of adjustment approved a variance request in April 2023 that allows the proposed hotel to have a floor-to-area ratio of 2.76 instead of the code-mandated 2.

Before the developer could even begin its presentation Jan. 12, planning commission Chair Michael Bryan raised the map issue.

According to a map provided to the city by the developer, a thin stretch of the property fronting the Boardwalk is in the VE zone. The proposed revision would put that section of the map in the AO zone.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency oversees flood map revisions. According to its website, “Buildings in V zones are subject to a greater hazard than buildings built in other types of floodplains. Not only do they have to be elevated above the base flood elevation, they must also be protected from the impact of waves, hurricane-force winds and erosion.”

If approved, this would be the second time in recent memory the map is changed for a commercial project in Rehoboth Beach. The proposed Belhaven Hotel on the south side of Rehoboth Avenue went through the same process. FEMA approved that map change – from VE zone to AO zone – in July 2021.

In fact, the portion of the One Rehoboth property in the VE zone is actually a triangle-shaped continuation of the VE zone that the Belhaven developers successfully changed.

For 20 minutes, Vince Robertson, the attorney representing the developer, attempted to convince planning commissioners the change to the map was imminent and the board would be on solid ground moving forward with a public hearing. However, planning commissioners weren’t convinced and voiced concerns about wasting time if the map isn’t revised.

Nick Walls, a planner for the city’s planning contractor Wallace Montgomery, advised that the building requirements between the two flood zones are so different that it would be hard to conduct a hearing. If one portion of a property is in a more restrictive zone, then the whole property has to be built using the more restrictive standards, he said, adding that the standards for underground parking in the VE zone would almost certainly be cost-prohibitive to the project.

Planning Commissioner Susan Gay expressed her frustration that the commission was only just finding out about the map change. She said she didn’t know about the change until getting the packet of information in advance of the meeting.

Robertson said they weren’t trying to hide the revision and have been in contact with city staff about the needed change since the beginning. There appears to be a lack of communication between city staff and the planning commission, he said.

By the end of the discussion, a consensus among the planning commission and the hotel development team was reached that the discussion will continue at the commission’s meeting scheduled for Friday, Feb. 9.

Summer House lot consolidation approved

The planning commission unanimously approved the lot consolidation of 228 and 230 Rehoboth Ave.

Summer House restaurant is located at 228 Rehoboth Ave. Owner Regan Derrickson, who also owns Nalu restaurants in Rehoboth and Dewey Beach, bought the 40-year-old restaurant in late 2022. He purchased the vacant lot immediately to the west, 230 Rehoboth Ave., a little over a month ago. The plan is to create an outdoor dining area in the vacant lot and also to add a few staff parking spaces off the alley along the back of the property.

This was the first lot consolidation for the planning commission since city commissioners repealed in September a section of code allowing for the consolidation process to be done administratively. In an effort to streamline the consolidation process, commissioners changed code about a decade ago to allow administrative approvals, but there were issues with record keeping between the city and Sussex County.


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