Rehoboth officials amenable to library’s plan for downtown

Change needed on deed restriction of westerly lot donated by the city years ago
November 12, 2023

Rehoboth Beach Public Library officials have a plan for the downtown facility, but it requires city commissioners to be on board with changing the deed restriction for a lot the city donated to the library years ago. Following a commissioner workshop Nov. 6, it appears, in principle, commissioners are on board.

About nine months ago, library officials informed the city they were in the early stages of planning for a second location outside city limits. At the time, library officials said they were committed to keeping a library downtown, but they didn’t know what it would look like or if all three lots being used by the existing building would be needed.

During a commissioner meeting Oct. 20, library board President Kay Wheatley said a task force, formed to help navigate the process, had come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is use the two easterly lots because the building already has a second floor and unused space for further expansion. The problem, she said, is the third lot, closest to the Summer House restaurant, was donated to the library by the city and is deed-restricted to always be a library.

Commissioners had a more formal discussion during a workshop Nov. 6. While there are still questions to be answered, commissioners are generally in favor of the proposal.

Wheatley said the library is not interested in selling the western lot. Instead, she said, the library would like to see a complementary use.

Mayor Stan Mills said he likes the plan because it keeps the library in town and the facade of the building remains the same.

The downtown renovation project is estimated to cost $5 million to $6 million, and the library has $4 million to $5 million, Wheatley said. A capital campaign would be needed for the extra funding, she said.

Commissioner Toni Sharp asked if the city’s annual donation to the library would be going toward that capital campaign. Wheatley said that donation always goes toward operational costs and will continue to do so in the future.

Andrea Hoffman, a member of the task force, said she is in favor of the library’s plan. This is a good start, she said.

There was discussion about the best path forward for changing the deed’s wording. City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said the deed currently lays out three options for the city if the use of the lot ever changes: It can take the land back; if the library decides to sell all three properties, the city has right of first refusal discounted by the fair market value of the lot; if the library sells all three lots, the city gets its portion of the sale.

No specifics were nailed down, but there appear to be two options moving forward – incorporate the deed restriction to one of the two remaining lots or add wording to the existing deed restriction that takes into account complementary uses.

Ultimately, commissioners tasked attorneys from the city and library to work out specific details for a commissioner workshop in December.


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