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Rehoboth considers simplifying some variances

New ordinance would allow minor setback encroachments
September 17, 2019

Story Location:
Rehoboth City Hall
229 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach  Delaware  19971
United States

Rehoboth commissioners are working on a code change that would give the city building inspector the power to administratively approve setback variances of up to one foot.

Commissioner Lisa Schlosser introduced the ordinance during the commissioner workshop Sept. 9. She said administrative variances would help residents by streamlining variance requests. This issue was discussed months ago and referred for vetting to the city’s law oversight committee. 

Under the draft proposal, the applicant will include a survey signed and sealed by a state-licensed surveyor, a brief written statement of the administrative variance requested and a $50 application fee.

Written notice of the variance request will be sent to adjacent property owners, and written comments will be accepted for 10 working days from the date of mailing. 

If an adjacent property owner objects, the application will be forwarded to the board of adjustment, and the $50 fee will be applied to the $1,000 board fee.

Schlosser said the change would not apply to new construction. As an example, she used the installation of new siding, with thicker insulation, now encroaching into a front, side or rear-yard setback.

Schlosser said city staff provided information that shows since 2015, there have been 41 board of adjustment applications; eight of them would have been handled administratively under the new procedure.

Sussex County passed a similar ordinance in 2012. Schlosser said she spoke with county officials, who told her 20 percent of variance requests are handled administratively.

In his last workshop after 12 years as a commissioner, Commissioner Stan Mills said the ordinance has good intent, but commissioners should review possible unintended consequences. He said the county took 19 months to pass its ordinance.

Mills said he was concerned the ordinance didn’t include a formal application and that notices were going only to adjacent properties. 

For the most part, though, Mills was in favor of the change, in part because better, more accurate surveying equipment is now in use. A decades-old title says a line should be here, he said, but a new survey, using modern technology, shows it’s one inch beyond where it should be.

Commissioners did not set a date to vote on the ordinance, but they did task city solicitor Glenn Mandalas with drafting an application form for a future meeting. A public hearing will be scheduled before commissioners vote on the ordinance.

Delaware Avenue stormwater contract awarded

During a special meeting Sept. 9, commissioners awarded a contract to replace the corrugated metal pipe that runs under the ocean block of Delaware Avenue and a section that runs under the dune, from Wilmington Avenue south to Brooklyn Avenue. Maryland-based SAK Construction won the $456,000 contract.

During the meeting, Public Works Director Kevin Williams said SAK’s base bid came in at roughly $442,000 for the project. He said two other bids received were in the amount of $476,000 and $640,000. The city budgeted $450,000 for the project. 

The project went above the budgeted amount because commissioners approved a $14,000  add-on of fiber reinforcement for the section of the stormwater pipe that runs under the Boardwalk and dune.

The contractor will use the existing pipe as a form for a cured-in-place pipe. Williams said there’s an expected life span of roughly 50 years.