Rehoboth Main Street to pay for pedestrian barriers

Downtown business group also raises enough money for beautification efforts
March 16, 2021

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach Main Street
509 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Following a successful fundraising campaign by Rehoboth Beach Main Street, it appears downtown businesses will not have to pay for the installation of commercial-district barriers this summer. The downtown organization has also raised enough money to install large planters in an attempt to beautify the bright-orange barriers.

Last summer, in response to COVID-19, Rehoboth Beach shouldered the cost of installing barriers along commercial-district streets to allow for dining areas set up on the sidewalk and still have a pedestrian walkway.

The barriers were put away for the winter, but the city will be placing them out again this spring. However, in November and at the recommendation of city staff, commissioners said businesses would be responsible for the barriers’ cost this summer.

With spring fast approaching, Main Street issued a press release Feb. 15 announcing a fundraising initiative with a goal of $30,000. Less than a month later, during a special commissioner meeting March 9, Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski, the commission’s liaison to RBMS, announced the organization had already exceeded the goal with $32,200. He said the money came in the form of private donations and a grant – $20,000 from the state’s Division of Small Business.

Chrzanowski then presented a proposal to commissioners that included Main Street paying the costs of the barriers – up to a little more than $16,000 for the season – and also paying to purchase large planters in an effort to beautify the orange-walled walkway.

Chrzanowski estimated 35 planters at a cost of roughly $15,000. He then said the planters would become the property of the city once the barrier season ends in the fall, and they could be used other places, sold or donated. The planters are already being used by Rehoboth In Bloom to beautify downtown. They are called Earth Planters and weigh more than 300 pounds once filled with water, soil and plantings.

The overall plan was met with overwhelming support by the rest of the commissioners.

Commissioner Richard Byrne said he’s helped Rehoboth In Bloom maintain the planters installed last year. The planters are self-watering, which means they only require weekly maintenance instead of daily, he said.

In an email March 10, Jerry Filbin, RBMS board secretary, said funding from the state’s Division of Small Business was definitely what carried the day.

“We were at the right place and right time to apply for COVID Relief funding,” he said.

Using volunteers who had experience as professional grant writers and a grant administrator, Filbin said Main Street had been working for some time before the initiative was announced to build an organized grant proposal process and boilerplate materials explaining the mission.

“In this case, we were well-positioned as a not-for-profit to apply for resources that the city could not go after,” said Filbin.

Filbin also credited the city with its financial support of Main Street as a reason for the successful campaign. The city has graciously provided significant support for general operations too, and RBMS couldn't have done this without that support, said Filbin.

Deadline extended on outdoor dining application

City Manager Sharon Lynn gave a brief update on applications from businesses interested in using the sidewalk this upcoming spring, summer and fall.

As of the March 9 meeting, Lynn said the city had received 41 applications from restaurants and businesses – up from 28 last year. Only 14 of the 28 from last year applied this year, she said.

The city had set a mid-February deadline to submit an application to use city sidewalks for commerce, then changed it to March 1. At this point, Lynn said, the city is still accepting applications. Staff was trying to get a jump on the matter by preventing a flood of applications at the last minute, she said.

“We’re not going to turn anyone away,” said Lynn.

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