Rehoboth Beach Museum granted variance to hang Dolle’s sign

Removed Dec. 15, historic Boardwalk logo slated to be put on canal-facing side of building
December 27, 2021

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach Museum
511 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

In what might go down as the quickest vote in board history, the Rehoboth Beach Board of Adjustment unanimously approved a variance request from the Rehoboth Beach Museum that paves the way for the historic Dolle’s sign to be mounted on the side of the museum’s Rehoboth Avenue home.

During a hearing Dec. 27, the board voted 4-0 in favor of the museum’s request to exceed the allowable square footage for a sign and to allow a wall-mounted sign to extend beyond the limits of the wall. The hearing, which included the reading of the city building inspector’s report, testimony from museum Board President David Mann and museum Executive Director Nancy Alexander, some brief questions from the board, and the reading of one letter against the request, lasted 40 minutes from start to finish.

Dolle’s Candyland owner Tom Ibach announced last December the sign needed to be down by the end of 2021 because his lease was ending for the building where the sign had stood since 1962. The sign was removed Dec. 15.

A couple of months ago, the museum announced it was willing and able to take the sign after the removal. The museum has been saying for weeks it would like to place the sign on the side of the building facing the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. The hearing proved to be more about dotting ‘i’s and crossing ‘t’s.

During the hearing, Mann said the museum was doing all it could to make sure that sign didn’t become a part of the forgotten Rehoboth. Plenty of people have a lot of emotion attached to the sign, and the museum wants it to stay within the city boundaries, he said.

“When people see that sign, it reminds them they’re at their happy place,” said Mann.

Alexander added that the museum is in the business of saving artifacts and memories, both of which the Dolle’s sign represents, she said.

The city owns the building where the museum is located, at 511 Rehoboth Ave. City solicitor Glenn Mandalas said the lease doesn’t prevent the museum from mounting the sign on the building, and city commissioners have given their support to the project.

As part of the approval, the board put a condition that the sign needed to be as low as possible, without the tail of the sign – the portion containing the words “salt water taffy” – blocking any portion of the canal-facing windows of the stairwell leading to the museum’s second floor.

Mann was happy to accept the condition. The higher the sign is on the building, he said, the less aesthetically pleasing it becomes, because it begins to loom over the rest of the building.

Prior to the vote, board Chair Jerry Capone said the city’s 2010 Comprehensive Development Plan speaks to preserving historic landmarks like the Dolle’s sign and Funland. He also pointed out that the mural painted on the side of the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center a couple of years ago includes the Dolle’s sign as one of the city’s iconic symbols.

Board Vice Chair Barry Brandt recused himself from the discussion and vote because he serves on the museum’s board.

In an email following the meeting, Mann said Alexander will now turn her attention to fundraising. The target is to have the sign installed sometime in April, weather permitting, he said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a timeline for the next steps.

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