See link for map of demo permits since 2012

Rehoboth’s newest demo likely means goodbye Big Bertha

Huge rhododendron could be 80 years old; 2021 finishes with fewest permits issued in years
March 15, 2022

As Rehoboth Beach’s old beach cottages are demolished, trees and shrubs that grew around them are also being removed to make way for new homes with larger footprints.

It appears that will be the case for a rhododendron named Big Bertha at 501 Bayard Ave. The city issued a demolition notice Feb. 14 for a two-story, single-family dwelling and an accessory structure on the property. Big Bertha is situated between the two buildings.

Qualifying it as an educated guess because no plans had yet been submitted to the city, City Arborist Liz Lingo said given its location on the lot, the rhododendron is likely to be removed. Rhododendrons are considered shrubs, and city code doesn’t require a permit to remove them, she said.

According to Sussex County property records, the parcel at the corner of Hickman Street was sold for $1.9 million in late 2021. The new owner could not be reached for comment.

The property’s previous owner, Joel Saltzman, said in 2015 that he thought the giant rhododendron was likely planted when the home was new, perhaps in the 1930s.

The loss of trees and shrubs in Rehoboth Beach isn’t new. In early 2019, Lingo provided a city committee with data showing that since 2016, on private property, there had been 886 trees removed, and 387 had been replaced.

Lingo said the information hasn’t been updated recently because the city switched permitting systems a couple of years ago and can no longer track trees removed and planted. However, she said the ratio has remained roughly the same.

On the city tree side, said Lingo, the city is still planting about three trees for every one removed. If anything, it’s creeping a bit closer to four, she said.

2021 finishes with fewest demo notices in years; still breaks 250 mark

Bucking a trend that had seen at least 30 demolition permits issued by the city in four of the last five years, 2021 finished with fewer than two dozen issued – 23. That’s the lowest number since 23 were issued in 2014 and 2015.

The city issued a permit March 7 for a two-story, single-family dwelling and an accessory structure at 205 Stockley St. Including the February notice above, the total number of demolition permits issued since April 2012 now sits at 253. The city’s annual 4-month-long moratorium on demolitions begins May 15.

In addition to the demolition notices, the city also issued at least three house-moving permits in 2021, most recently Nov. 15 for a two-story, single-family dwelling and an accessory structure at 330 Hickman St.

Permits issued annually since April 2012:
  • 2012: 14
  • 2013: 15
  • 2014: 23
  • 2015: 23
  • 2016: 30
  • 2017: 30
  • 2018: 27
  • 2019: 34
  • 2020: 32
  • 2021: 23
  • 2022: 2 to date
Permits issued by month since April 2012:
  • January – 22
  • February – 19
  • March – 25
  • April – 9
  • May – 6
  • June – 3
  • July – 9
  • August – 53
  • September – 33
  • October – 36
  • November – 21
  • December – 17

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