The Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission has delayed a vote on the site plan for a new Rehoboth Elementary School amid concerns over the building size, traffic issues and proposed stormwater management.
Following a nearly four-hour public hearing July 14, the commission agreed to continue discussion of the plan at its Friday, Aug. 11 meeting. The commission asked officials of the Cape Henlopen School District to come back with additional information in response to their questions.
The proposed plans drew a mixed response from residents who stayed through the whole hearing.
Former planning Commissioner Mabel Granke, of Scarborough Avenue Extended, criticized the district for its obsession to impose a site plan that is not compatible with the site or the neighborhood. She said the proposed school is oversized and does not fit in with the school’s original purpose as a neighborhood school.
“Be what it was used for,” Granke said.
Besides the school’s size, neighbors have also raised concerns about traffic flow. Plans show the new school would be more centrally located on the lot; construction is expected to take place during the 2018 school year, with construction vehicles accessing the property via State Road. Once the new school is built, students would access the school via Stockley Street Extended, where there would be two entrances, one for cars and one for buses, but neighbors say the location of the proposed entrances would create a bottleneck on Stockley Street Extended.
Patty Derrick, co-owner of Sea Shell Shop, supports the new school. She said as people set up second homes in Rehoboth, their grandchildren are coming back to town. Former Cape school board member Camilla Conlin also spoke in support of the new school.
Sallie Forman, president of Save Our Lakes Alliance3, questioned two planned infiltration basins designed to hold stormwater runoff that would otherwise empty into Silver Lake. Commissioner Harvey Shulman also extensively questioned district officials about the basins. Project engineer Zachary Crouch said the infiltration basins, which were originally retention ponds, would only empty into the lake in the event of a 100-year storm. However, on questioning from Shulman, Crouch and district officials could not answer how much water would empty into the lake. Still, Crouch insisted the basins will work for the site, although Shulman said prior to a vote, he wanted to see more concrete evidence.
Besides the stormwater basins, Crouch said the other major change to the plans was reducing the number of parking spaces from 217 to 186. He said this was done in order to relocate two existing propane tanks and to increase the amount of green space.
The existing school has been in existence since the late 1930s, said school district attorney Jim Fuqua. The new school would be built on the same site at Stockley Street Extended and School Lane and would include two athletic fields and basketball and pickleball courts. The new school would eventually host 630 students, but would have a capacity of 720.
The commission raised questions about noise, with Mellen suggesting the district talk with acoustics experts. That led Fuqua to say, “This isn’t an assisted living facility.” Mellen said the school has gone from a neighborhood school to a destination school, meaning it is not designed for kids from Rehoboth but kids from all over the area.
District officials have said the design of the new school is similar to two other new schools being built: Love Creek Elementary School and H.O. Brittingham Elementary School. The idea to use the same design for all of the new schools was intended to save on design costs and to give students at all three schools a similar experience.