Rehoboth Auto’s rezoning request denied

Proposed 2-inch increase to basement height fails; clarifying language for parking code approved
July 25, 2023

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach City Hall
229 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Nearly a year after the initial request, Rehoboth Beach commissioners have denied a rezoning request for the owners of a long-standing business on Route 1 from C3 to C1.

Rehoboth Auto Repair owners Richard and Stephanie Marsch have owned and operated the business at 20669 Coastal Hwy. for decades. Looking to add another repair bay, the couple requested to rezone a property next to their shop, 20663 Coastal Hwy., from C3 to C1. During a meeting July 21, commissioners voted 6-1 against the requested rezoning.

The property in question is located immediately to the east of residential houses on Scarborough Avenue Extended. When the Marsches first requested the rezoning, the neighboring houses were also zoned C3, but during a meeting in June, at the request of those neighbors, city commissioners voted in favor of changing the zoning designation from C3 to R1, residential.

During the meeting, Richard Marsch said the yard of the property in question is currently being used for storage, while the house itself is occupied by the shop’s general manager and wife, the shop’s office manager. 

In advance of the vote, Mayor Stan Mills went over the differences between the two commercial zoning districts. Commercial garages and repair shops are among those differences, he said.

Mills said he didn’t like the idea of a C1 district being right up against a residential neighborhood. He’s a proponent of buffer zones between the two districts, he said.

Commissioner Tim Bennett said he was against the change, in part, because the house is currently being used as a residence for the shop’s employees. 

Commissioner Toni Sharp said the proposed change would not be aligned with the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski was the only favorable vote. He said the city’s comprehensive development plan allows for the zoning change and it would allow for services that the community needs.

Chrzanowski said the property is still zoned commercial and could still be a whole list of things that aren’t appetizing. 

Changes to basement height fails

A staff-requested change to bring city code in line with the International Building Code related to the height of basements also failed.

Months ago, Assistant Building Inspector Corey Shinko asked city commissioners to change the maximum allowable height of a basement from 6-feet-6-inches to 6-feet-8-inches.

Prior to the vote, former Mayor Sam Cooper said he was concerned with wording that would change measured height from the underside of the first-floor floor joists to simply “ceiling height.” All someone would have to do is install a drop ceiling at 6-feet-8-inches, then remove it after inspections were done, he said.

Cooper said he was also concerned that adding any extra height to basements would encourage the continued illegal conversion of basements to living space. There’s a potential for increased density and usage, he said.

Ultimately, commissioners voted against the proposed change. Commissioners adopted a resolution in March allowing projects with a basement height of 6-feet-6-inches to move forward while they figured out the solution. For now, or until commissioners revisit the issue, staff will continue to operate under the resolution.

Wording changes to parking code approved

By a vote of 5-2, commissioners approved wording changes to the city’s parking code.

Additional changes include clarifying existing practices related to the minimum number of spaces for off-street parking for medical, dental and legal offices; no parking spaces required for a retail or service shop with less than 15,000 square feet; and a minimum number of off-street parking spaces for all other commercial uses.

Commissioners raised concerns related to how the code does not include all types of businesses in town – theaters and arcades – and how many spaces are needed.

City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said it would be easy to figure out which businesses have been left off the list. The hard part, he said, will be figuring out how many parking spaces those businesses will need.


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