Rehoboth day trippers are the real menace
When I first became a Rehoboth Beach homeowner more than a decade ago, I was astounded by the level and efficiency of town service. The town seemed committed to improving the quality of life for those who owned homes in Rehoboth Beach regardless of whether the homeowners were full-time residents or not. The city focused on delivering core services (crime prevention, traffic and sanitation) and making impressive infrastructure improvements that all could enjoy (including the renovation of main street and reconstruction of the Boardwalk). Twice-weekly trash pickup was provided with rules and a schedule that was convenient for those not in town during the work week. All of this was achieved while keeping property taxes low.
Now, in 2016, it’s clear that something has changed. I can’t point to one moment in particular, but there is a decidedly less unified feeling in this city. It’s almost as if big-city patronage politics are seeping into Rehoboth Beach. The town government now seems focused on addressing needs of niche constituencies that will ensure an electoral majority, no matter how slim, rather than building a consensus among our diverse community.
While the town purports to be acting to address problems and to preserve their vision of Rehoboth Beach as a bucolic town, recent actions have had other effects (whether intended or not). Specifically, recent town actions have:
• Provided protection from new competition to those who rent their Rehoboth properties
• Limited the ability of homeowners to make improvements to their homes and landscaping
• Essentially eliminated street side trash pickup for homeowners who don’t remain in Rehoboth Beach during the work week.
• Discouraged weekend nightlife
• Created obstacles for iconic local businesses such as Dogfish Head.
Have these actions improved or even preserved the quality of life for Rehoboth Beach homeowners? That, of course, is a subjective question and I’m sure there is a wide range of opinions in our diverse community. From my perspective, we are seeing increasingly heavy-handed solutions to problems that barely exist, if at all. I personally would prefer to live in a community where I can decide how many trees I have on my property. I see no imminent risk of deforestation in Rehoboth. I appreciated being able to leave my trash in a bag curbside on Sunday and saw no evidence of problems caused by doing so. I am pleased to see neighbors modernize and improve their homes in line with the current land values, and would like the freedom to do so in the future.
I have never rented and have no intention to do so, but there are many rental properties in our vicinity and we have experienced noisy neighbors on occasion. To me, that annoyance pales in comparison to what has happened to our beloved beach. Evidently, Rehoboth Beach has become the preferred beach destination for thousands of people residing in the thousands of new homes built in non-oceanside communities of Sussex County.
Rather than taking advantage of the spacious Delaware State Parks, these day trippers flood into Rehoboth, parking on residential streets and trudging to the beach with their loaded carts to set up encampments on the beach. I suspect that the impact of this surge of day trippers is one reason the town has had to make dramatic reductions in core services, such as trash pickup. Town polices that make the town’s beach preferable to Delaware State Parks for those not residing in the town limits undoubtedly have done far more to destroy the quality of life in our beach town than occasionally noisy neighbors.
So, as I weigh the pitches of each of the three candidates, I am interested to know who is attentive to the homeowner who does not reside in Rehoboth Beach all week long? who trusts me with the freedom to decide how many trees I plant? or how I modernize my home? Who will side with all homeowners to preserve the benefit of living in an oceanside community that we all paid a premium for?
And, yes, if there is just one candidate that represents my vision, then I will cast a bullet vote - hoping that it might just be a silver bullet that gets the attention of our emerging political machine.