Since Rehoboth Beach began work on its 2020 Comprehensive Development Plan in December 2018, all but one of the nine planning commissioners has changed; there have been four planning commission chairs; two mayors and two year-long extensions granted by the state. Now, with the state’s third and final completion deadline roughly 300 days away, work on the city’s new comprehensive development plan will have to be finished with a new consultant.
During a joint meeting of city commissioners and the planning commission Sept. 20, Mayor Stan Mills announced that, effective Oct. 1, KCI consultant Debbie Pfeil would no longer be working for the city. He said a leadership team was formed that consisted of himself, City Manager Sharon Lynn, City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas, Planning Chair Mike Bryan and former Planning Chair Jeff Trunzo, and the city was on its way to hiring a second consultant, Wallace Montgomery, a Maryland-based engineering consulting firm with locations in Newark and Dover.
Pfeil said she has been working remotely on the project part time from Arizona for months and had recently taken another full-time job.
Mills called Pfeil’s departure extraordinary and encouraged a positive attitude among the planning commissioners, but he said there was no other choice because there was no wiggle room to complete the plan.
The announcement of Pfeil’s departure was the first thing brought up at the Sept. 20 meeting, which was held because most of the planning commission members, during a Sept. 10 meeting, expressed how frustrated they were with not having anything to look at yet.
Lauren Good will be the project manager from Wallace Montgomery overseeing the completion of the plan. She used to work with Pfeil at KCI and helped collect some of the data for this plan at the beginning. She has set a target date of Monday, Oct. 11, for completion of a draft that will be released for internal review among the planning commissioners.
When Mills opened up the joint meeting to questions from city and planning commissioners, Commissioner Toni Sharp said she wanted to know how much of the document was completed.
Some areas are 90 percent complete and others are 60 percent, said Pfeil.
This prompted planning commission members Steve Kauffman, Nan Hunter, Julie Davis and Jim Ellison to request the work that has been completed be disseminated immediately so they can begin to wrap their heads around how much still needs to be done over the coming months. Sharp, Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski and Commissioner Tim Bennett supported this idea.
This is going to require meeting on a biweekly schedule, said Hunter, who was participating in her first meeting as a planning commissioner. For the quality of the plan, the planning commissioners need as much content as possible as quickly as possible, she said.
Mills did not allow for the completed work to be released during the meeting. However, in an email Sept. 22, Mills said the information should be released by the end of the week, with disclaimers that it is incomplete. He was hesitant to force KCI to go public with unfinished portions without talking to Wallace Montgomery representatives first, he said.
“The purpose of receiving an incomplete product seems to be more to satisfy curiosity than to productively move the process along,” said Mills, adding that Wallace Montgomery will not accept comments from the planning commission related to this incomplete draft.
The release of completed data wasn’t the only problem – city and planning commissioners were also concerned that most of the public comment data being used to create the new comprehensive development plan was pre-COVID, and they questioned the rising consultant costs.
Mills said the data forms the basis of the updated plan, but he, city commissioners and planning commission members have not had an opportunity for significant input yet.
“I am confident that all will [happen] in due course,” he said. “Important, additional opportunities for public input and engagement in the CDP development process are built into the schedule.”
To date, fees paid out for development of the CDP since the beginning in 2019 total about $95,000, said Mills in his email. The contracted fee for Wallace Montgomery is not expected to exceed $51,131, he said.