Rehoboth library eyeing Warrington Road for new home

Portion of existing library will remain downtown as satellite facility
March 3, 2023

Rehoboth Beach Public Library officials recently announced they would be moving the main facility outside city limits, while also maintaining a satellite library downtown. 

At the time, library Board President Tom Wontorek and Secretary Tucker Kokjohn told city commissioners the library was days away from signing a letter of intent for a property outside town, but they couldn’t say where, and that a library facility would remain downtown, but they didn’t know where.

It appears both questions have been answered. Board Vice President Kay Wheatley said the library signed the letter of intent March 1 for a five-acre parcel off Warrington Road just south of Route 24 across from the new Beebe Healthcare Specialty Surgical Hospital. In Rehoboth Beach, they’re planning a 3,000- to 5,000-square-foot operation in the portion of the current library building that’s closest to the Summer House. The new out-of-town library will be accessed via the current dead-end stub off the new roundabout that was installed in 2021.

During a Feb. 24 city commissioner meeting, Wontorek and Kokjohn said there were several reasons why the library was relocating. Among them are the current building doesn’t have enough space and there aren’t enough parking spaces. They said a needs study conducted in late 2018 showed 90% of the library's users live more than two miles from the current location.

The library’s service area has a population of about 16,000 people and encompasses 32 square miles – Dewey Beach to Rehoboth Beach to Route 24 to Angola.

As for the downtown facility, as long as the library wants to keep the land, the library is required by deed restrictions to keep the portion of the facility closest to Summer House as a library.

Facing the library from Rehoboth Avenue, the building sits on three 50-by-100-foot lots. The one closest to Summer House was once city land that was donated to the library. According to a contract signed by the city and library in 1993, a restriction placed on the land transfer requires that land to be used exclusively as a public library, and the city has right of first refusal if the library tries to sell the land.

While all the details aren’t figured out, Wheatley said the library will be operating out of that space. The other two parcels were also donated to the library, but there are no restrictions, she said.

City commissioners are scheduled to continue discussing the issue during two meetings Monday, March 6. In the morning, during the commissioners’ monthly workshop, the issue is topic No. 1. In the afternoon, during a budget meeting, commissioners will continue to discuss the city’s annual contributions – the library has asked for $75,000. 

Mayor Stan Mills said library representatives have been invited to both meetings to further explain their expansion plans.

“Learning of the library’s plans was a surprise to all of us and was not well received by commissioners nor residents, perhaps because we don’t know the full story,” said Mills. “I have said before that a library, along with churches and schools, are some of the organizations that turn a city into a community. So, I am hopeful of hearing clearly that retention of a library in town is a part of future plans.”


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