After years of little to no use, Rehoboth Beach has put the lot it owns at 84 Kent St. up for sale.
Commissioners first decided to put the 5,000-square-foot lot that includes a two-story meeting hall up for sale around this time last year as part of the budgeting process for the current fiscal year. The sale was posted on the city’s website Jan. 5.
As evidenced by the moss growing on the roof, the building on the lot has sat empty for years. The Kiwanis Club of Coastal Delaware was the most recent organization to use it. Some locals also refer to the house as the Scout House. Sussex County property records call it Boy Scout Hall.
During a commissioners meeting Dec. 7, City Manager Sharon Lynn said the building has not been used very much, if at all, in the last five years. She said there was some discussion about making the house available as workforce housing for summer police cadets, but there would be a lot of costly work needed to make the building usable for that purpose.
The city has owned the property for a long time, but its generally vacant status was brought to light a few years ago at the beginning of the city’s ongoing nativity scene saga. For many years, the Kiwanis Club installed the nativity scene downtown – first near Bandstand; then, during work on Rehoboth Avenue’s streetscape project, on the front lawn of M&T Bank, also on Rehoboth Avenue.
In 2018, after the foam figurines hadn’t been displayed in years, parishioners from St. Edmond Catholic Church and members of Knights of Columbus Star of the Sea Council retrieved the crèche from the building at 84 Kent St., where it had been stored by the Kiwanis Club. Shortly after that, the foam figurines returned to the bandstand. Roughly 48 hours after being installed, the city ordered them removed; there’s still an ongoing lawsuit against the city by the Knights related to claims of religious discrimination.
The installation of the crèche spurred city officials to evaluate the status of all its city-owned property. Over the course of multiple meetings, commissioners ultimately agreed it was in the best interest of the city to sell the lot at 84 Kent because it was no longer being used and was more of a liability than an asset.
More recently, during a commissioner budget workshop Jan. 4, Lynn said because of the timing of the listing, she’s not positive if the money will be put toward the current fiscal year or next year’s; Rehoboth’s fiscal year runs April 1-March 31. Either way, she said, she recommended holding the funds in reserve until the commissioners have time to evaluate how this year’s budget turned out.
Lynn said she expected the sale of the lot to be reflected as revenue in the next draft of the city's budget for next year. She said the amount would be a conservative estimate, probably between $800,000 and $900,000.
There is no asking price for the lot on the city’s for-sale post, but it does say the appraised value as of October 2018 was a little over $1 million.