At the recommendation of the Rehoboth Beach Police Department, city commissioners unanimously approved a special events ordinance during an Oct. 19 meeting.
Rehoboth Police Department Lt. Jamie Riddle crafted the ordinance, needed, he said, because Rehoboth, like many other cities, faces a critical challenge in light of recent societal and political events. He said the ordinance enhances the planning and preparation process to ensure the safety of residents and visitors.
“Our city serves as a premier stage for Sussex County, Delaware,” Riddle said in an email Nov. 14. “This stage gives organizations an instant audience of thousands; therefore, it is in high demand and serves as a target location for many event organizers.”
The ordinance calls for an applicant to pay a nonrefundable base fee of $600, which Riddle said provides the use of city facilities, including the Bandstand or Boardwalk, and an extra-duty police officer for three hours. He said this replaces a system where an applicant would pay for these things as separate fees.
Riddle said applicants must submit a request at least eight weeks before the event is to take place, but he said he would recommend that any organizer submit an application as soon as possible to avoid scheduling and planning conflicts.
“Last year the police department staffed nearly 50 events, meaning availability is an issue to consider,” Riddle said.
If an event is deemed large enough, the applicant will have to pay more than the $600 base fee. Riddle said many issues go into determining if an event crosses that threshold, such as anticipated size and purpose of the event; the character, day, date, time, duration, location; location of items like tables, tents, portable bathrooms and trailers; requested parking or street closure; and if the special event is to be a parade, procession, race, or similar moving assembly.
Under the new ordinance, private social gatherings on private property and funeral processions are exceptions.
The ordinance requires the city manager to approve or deny the special event within 30 days of receiving the application. If an application is denied, that decision may be appealed before the board of commissioners. If the appeal is filed 10 or more days before the board’s next regular meeting, it will be heard at that meeting. If the appeal is filed less than 10 days before the next regular meeting, it will be heard at the next regular meeting unless a special meeting is scheduled to hear the appeal.
The new ordinance calls for the police department to prepare an application form and procedural guidelines, which Riddle said is underway. The new application will be available on the city’s website, and the plan is to have these changes in effect by the new year, he said.