Rehoboth Beach officials have undertaken a comprehensive review of parking requirements in zoning code to see where there are holes and where possible changes are needed.
Nick Walls and Lauren Goode, planners for the city’s contractor Wallace Montgomery, have been reviewing the entire zoning code and looking for all the different uses of parking, including areas that are inferred or don’t exist. Walls presented their work during a commissioner workshop Sept. 5.
Walls said municipal code is always playing catch-up because there are always new types of buildings or uses that weren’t considered when code was drafted.
A few of the inferred examples included two-family dwellings, apartments, dinner theater and community-related offices. Walls said those examples were put into the category that best fit their use, with industry-accepted parking requirements.
Mayor Stan Mills said areas of inference may not be a good thing because they lead to ambiguity. Those areas may need to be clarified, he said.
Commissioner Toni Sharp asked how a new employee would know city standards. Would they just be winging it? she asked. She said it appears policies need to be tightened.
City Manager Laurence Christian said there’s a history of decisions for staff to fall back on. They’re not winging it, he said.
Where there are holes and parking could be needed, but it isn’t expressly talked about or inferred, there was a new category created for commissioners to think about. Walls said these are simply suggestions. They sounded reasonable and a good place to start, he said.
For example, places of amusement, commercial tennis courts, gymnasium or health club, and theater or halls were lumped together in a category called active recreational. In this category, if the facility is less than 10,000 square feet, there would be no parking requirements. If it is larger than 10,000 square feet, there would be a one-spot requirement for every 400 square feet.
Commissioner Jay Lagree said he didn’t think gyms and theaters should be in the same category. They might be the same size and have the same capacity, but the gym has fewer people at one time, with many coming and going all day, while a theater has a big group leaving all at once, he said.
Another example of a new category is utility/infrastructure, which includes uses like telephone central office, gas or electric building, or a building deemed necessary by the city. Walls said the burden would be on those entities to show how much parking is needed.
Playing that process out, City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said the applicant would likely go before the planning commission for site-plan review, where the number of spaces would be determined. Walls agreed.
Commissioner Tim Bennett said he would like to see the code simplified and parking based on capacity. It’s either residential or it’s not, and then there’s a specific capacity, he said.
Walls said there are communities with code set up like that. However, he said, the more general a code is, the more there’s a tendency to overbuild parking.
Old malls are a perfect example, said Walls. Eighty percent of the time, the parking lot is 80% empty, he said.
In the end, Walls, who described the table as a record of guidance for staff to use in the future, suggested that before commissioners move forward on any changes based on his suggestions, they wait until the parking study that’s underway is complete. They could make recommendations that make a lot of sense, he said.
The city’s contractor, Rossi Group, conducted information gathering this summer, and Christian said he didn’t think recommendations would be done before early 2024.