The Rehoboth Beach commissioners narrowly agreed to hear an appeal by the developer of a proposed 63-unit condominium project known as BeachWalk.
The commission voted 3-2 to deny a motion to dismiss brought by the city planning commission in an ongoing battle over the proposed development, off Route 1 at the current site of Rehoboth Beach Plaza shopping center. Commissioners Toni Sharp, Kathy McGuiness and Lisa Schlosser all agreed that when the planning commission decided to take no further action on BeachWalk’s site plan, that was in effect a final action, a denial, giving the commissioners jurisdiction over the case. The planning commission argued it had taken no final action, and thus, the commissioners could not hear the case. Commissioners Stan Mills and Patrick Gossett agreed with the planning commission argument, saying a final action is either an approval or a denial. Mayor Paul Kuhns has recused himself from the proceedings.
No date has been set to hear the appeal.
The BeachWalk project would feature 58 single-family homes and five multifamily units on a 7.75-acre parcel. BeachWalk developer Keith Monigle first submitted his application in summer 2015, but immediately ran into problems with city building officials over whether he could build more than one structure on the lot.
After receiving a variance from the board of adjustment, the project then proceeded to site-plan review by the planning commission. The project met with opposition from neighbors on nearby Terrace Road, Scarborough Avenue Extended and Lake Drive because of the proposed number of units and the layout. Rehoboth police and fire officials also opposed the project’s narrow streets and a proposal to close access to the property from Route 1. As submitted, the plan required southbound traffic to make a U-turn and then turn right onto Terrace Road, entering the development from Terrace Road.
The planning commission eventually ruled that BeachWalk constituted a major subdivision and asked Monigle and his attorney, Dennis Schrader, to apply as such. Monigle refused, leading the commission to give them 60 more days to file a major subdivision application. When Schrader and Monigle did not file, the commission took no further action. Schrader appealed the commission’s decision to the city commissioners.
McGuiness said the commission took final action by not continuing the case.
“Doing nothing was an action,” she said.
Mills said the commission did not take a final action because there was no public hearing followed by an up or down vote.
“It did not rise to the level of a public hearing where any actions were taken, other than the planning commission saying the application was incomplete and needs to be augmented with additional information,” he said.
Schlosser said, “The planning commission did specifically state on more than one occasion that if the application [for a major subdivision] is not filed, then the commission will consider this a final action.”
There was no public participation at the Oct. 20 meeting; Dewey Beach Solicitor Fred Townsend, advising the city commissioners in the case because city attorney Glenn Mandalas was representing the planning commission, said there would be limited public comment at the appeal hearing. Only those who spoke in front of the planning commission would be permitted to speak, Townsend said, although ground rules for the appeal must still be worked out.
While the public did not speak at the Oct. 20 meeting, neighbors of BeachWalk attended to listen to the proceedings. Linda and Tom Delaney, who live on Terrace Road, said they were disappointed by the commissioners’ decision and that the city has allowed the property to deteriorate to the state it is in today, with crumbling buildings and potholes.
“If they give in to this, what is going to happen to the next big plot of land? I can’t believe it has come this far,” Linda said. “We’re not against developing. It’s his land. But develop it in a way that is more environmentally friendly, is better for the city of Rehoboth. Thirty or 40 houses? That’s one thing. But 63?”
“He’s building hotels back there, is what he’s doing. It’s all going to be rentals. Five and six-bedroom houses are almost always rentals,” Tom said.
Mandalas said the appeal will be on a few key issues, primarily if Beach Walk has to file as a major subdivision, but the commissioners would not be giving the project the green light if they were to vote in Beach Walk’s favor. He said the project would head back to the planning commission for a decision based on parameters the city commissioners impose.
Mandalas said he and Schrader would file legal briefs outlining their positions, a process that would take 8 to 12 weeks. After that, the matter would go to a public hearing.