Citing a negative impact on the surrounding residential neighborhood and also being in conflict with the Rehoboth Beach’s comprehensive development plan, city commissioners voted March 18 against a request to rezone the residential portion of 330 Rehoboth Ave.
The 5-2 decision followed a public hearing that began Feb. 18 and continued March 18, and follows a similar vote by the planning commission in December.
The request to rezone the property, which has roughly 23,000 square feet of C-1 commercial along Rehoboth Avenue and about 19,500 square feet of R-1 residential along State Road, was brought forward by 330 Hospitality Group LLC. The business is a partnership between Bette Gallo, founder and president of Gallo Realty, and Lockwood Design and Construction owner Don Lockwood.
Mayor Stan Mills and Commissioners Patrick Gossett, Susan Gay, Jay Lagree and Toni Sharp voted against the rezoning.
Gossett said there are examples of properties being rezoned from commercial to residential throughout Rehoboth, but not residential to commercial.
Gay suggested the applicants go before the board of adjustment. It can give the applicants what they want and it’s safer for the city, she said.
Commissioners Edward Chrzanowski and Tim Bennett voted in favor of rezoning the property.
It’s been used as a commercial parking lot for more than 50 years, said Chrzanowski.
Lockwood and his attorney David Hutt attended the meeting. Immediately afterward, Lockwood said he was unsure if he and Gallo were going to go before the board of adjustment. He and Gallo need to evaluate their options before any decisions are made, he said.
Rehoboth approves $30 million budget
Commissioners adopted a $30.1 million budget for fiscal year 2023 during the March 18 meeting. The city’s fiscal year runs April 1 to March 31. The budget contains no tax increases, allocates $6.4 million for capital improvements and provides for a maximum 3 percent raise for employees. The budget represents a 9 percent increase over the current year’s budget. The city’s budget includes the creation of an assistant city manager position, a $105,000 increase in contributions to local agencies and an increase in starting pay rates for seasonal employees.
The capital improvement budget includes reconstruction of the State Road pump station, design of the Baltimore Avenue comfort station and Rehoboth Beach Patrol headquarters, and the hiring of a program manager to create a funding and phasing plan for the Wilmington/Baltimore streetscape project. Additional capital improvement items in the budget include the addition and extension of beach access mats, purchase of a hook hoist container truck and wheel loader, water and wastewater infrastructure assessment and repairs, installation of parking pay stations on Rehoboth Avenue, water meter replacements, and annual citywide street paving.
The budget also reflects a new three-year agreement with the police union that calls for a 3 percent raise this year and 2.5 percent raises each of the next two years.
Evan Miller named interim city manager
City Manager Sharon Lynn announced weeks ago that she was leaving her position, effective May 6. Commissioners appointed Evan Miller as interim city manager during the March 18 meeting.
Miller has worked for the city for the past five years, most recently as projects coordinator with responsibility for supervising the parking department, leading development of the city’s annual budget, serving as grants administrator, and managing several high-level capital improvement projects.
Miller has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Delaware.
Following Miller’s appointment, commissioners also authorized the mayor to enter into an agreement with the executive search firm Raftelis to assist the city in its city manager search.
City planner not renewing contract
During her city manager announcements, Lynn said City Planner Tom West has notified the city his service with the city will be completed at the end of the month.
West, Rehoboth’s first city planner, was hired in August after former planning commission Chair Jeffrey Trunzo announced, at the conclusion of a second round public hearings on the site plan for Clear Space Theatre’s Rehoboth Avenue project, that as chair he would not have the planning commission go through another complicated site-plan review without the guidance of a city planner. At the time of his hiring, West was only contracted through the end of the fiscal year, which is March 31.
Lynn said Maryland-based firm Wallace Montgomery has signed on to fill city planner responsibilities on an as-needed basis. Their contract begins April 1, she said.
Wallace Montgomery is the contractor hired by the city in September to complete the city’s 2020 comprehensive development plan after the original contractor left nearly three years into the assignment.
Wastewater contract awarded
After approving the budget, commissioners awarded a $7.64 million contract to Pennsylvania-based contract Michael F. Ronca & Sons for Phase 3B of upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
This phase is the dewatering process associated with treatment plant upgrades. When the project is complete, the city will no longer need to have a contract for the land application of the leftover sludge, said Miller. The remaining waste will be shipped to Sussex County, he said.
The awarded amount came in more than $1 million over the estimate of $6.53 million. Miller said the engineer’s estimate came in lower than the bid amount for a few reasons: It’s a highly specialized project that only a few companies can do and also because of inflation.
Miller said the contract will be officially awarded in April, with a start time of September. He said the goal is to have it completed by spring 2024.