A standing-room crowd at CAMP Rehoboth’s community center came out July 26 to hear six candidates make their pitch to become city commissioners.
The race includes candidates Mark Betchkal, Edward Chrzanowski, Charles Garlow, Susan Gay, Gary Glass and Suzanne Goode. Two seats are up for grabs after commissioners Stan Mills and Toni Sharp decided to step down at the end of their terms. The candidates sparred a little, but tried to focus more on laying out their vision for the city and how they would serve as commissioners.
In their opening statements, the candidates established their platforms.
Betchkal said he wanted to see the city become less reliant on cars and more friendly for pedestrians, more mixed-use development, and a stronger zoning code to protect what is there now.
Chrzanowski touted his experience working in the community, most notably as the president of Rehoboth Beach Main Street, saying that experience helped him learn to build consensus.
Garlow’s primary platform item is fighting climate change. He said he wants to see Rehoboth develop a climate action plan to help reduce carbon impact. He said this plan would be done on a step-by-step basis with target goals and enforcement targets to build up an infrastructure.
Gay, a member of the city’s planning commission, said Rehoboth is at an exciting point, where the city gets to plot forward where it wants to go in the future through the comprehensive development plan. As a member of the planning commission, Gay said she has worked directly in the plan’s drafting, and as commissioner, she wants to see through its implementation.
Glass, a former accountant who ran for office last year, said he wants to represent homeowners who often don’t have a large voice in the process. He said he wants to maximize the assets the town already has, and also proposed the possibility of a jitney service to reduce auto traffic in town.
Goode said she decided to run for office after attending commissioners meetings and being concerned that the board is favoring the business community over residents. She said she wants to reduce the financial burden on residents.
The candidates were asked what the three biggest issues facing the town were. The most popular answer was infrastructure; balanced growth and fiscal responsibility came in next.
Related to infrastructure was a question from former Commissioner Jay Lagree, 7 Prospect St., who asked how the candidates would finance upgrades to the city’s stormwater management system.
Glass said the city has increased numerous fees over the last year, but has no prioritization for how the money raised will be used. He said the city needs to prioritize how the money is spent.
Goode said for stormwater improvements, she would like to see more of the burden on tourists and short-term visitors, who use these services but do not pay the same level of fees as residents. She supported parking permits being enforced until 9 p.m., and starting permits and parking meters at 9 a.m.
Goode and Betchkal supported the idea of a hotel accommodations tax to help pay for the improvements. While not mentioning specifics, Chrzanowski and Garlow similarly suggested finding additional revenue sources outside residents.
Gay said she was not sure the hotel tax was going to be enough. She said the city should look into its impact fees. Gay said the city could take proactive measures as well, such as planting more trees and requiring new construction include a stormwater management plan.
A few questions were of the yes or no variety. The candidates were asked about the controversial measure extending voting to LLCs and whether they would bring it back. Gay, Goode, Glass and Betchkal all said no. Chrzanowski said he leans toward no but he thinks there is a certain level of disenfranchisement for people who own their property in an LLC. Garlow said maybe but with conditions.
Jennifer Duncan, 68 Kent St., asked in light of the controversial Clear Space Theatre project, whether the candidates will enforce the city’s building height limits for commercial and residential properties. Goode, Glass, Chrzanowski, Gay and Betchkal all said yes. Garlow said he would want to hear the reasons someone would want to exceed before saying no.
Debate moderator Murray Archibald told the audience to direct their question at all candidates, but the last question of the evening was the most candidate-specific. Bunky Markert of New Castle Street Extended asked if any of the candidates had sued the city before. All but Chrzanowski said no. Chrzanowski had been involved with a suit with the city over building a pool at his property back in 2015.
The Rehoboth election will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 10, at City Hall.