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Rehoboth planning chair’s objectivity questioned on Clear Space

As site-plan review nears, Rick Perry asked to recuse himself on new Rehoboth Avenue theater
July 4, 2020

Story Location:
Clear Space Theatre Company
415 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach  Delaware  19971
United States

Ever since Clear Space Theatre Company introduced a proposal for a new Rehoboth Avenue theater nearly two years ago, former Rehoboth Beach resident Mark Betchkal has been a loud critic of the plan and the perceived lack of transparency between the theater and city officials.

Now, in a full-page ad in the July 3 edition of the Cape Gazette, Betchkal is questioning the objectivity of Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission Chair Rick Perry and calling for the state Attorney General’s Office and Delaware Public Integrity Commission to scrutinize the relationship between Clear Space and city officials.

“The whole affair stinks of corruption, a lack of transparency, privilege, and a bold attempt to deny the citizens of Rehoboth Beach of their lawful protections provided by the city code,” said Betchkal. “The city and its citizens deserve better.”

The Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission is scheduled to conduct a site-plan review Friday, July 10, of Clear Space’s proposed theater at 415 Rehoboth Ave. and of Rehoboth Spotlight at lot 417. The reviews have been requested by Clear Space Executive Director Wesley Paulson. There are two structures being reviewed – a 256-seat traditional theater at 415 and a rehearsal theater, known as The Spotlight Theatre, at 417.

Claiming that Clear Space’s real estate attorney Gene Lawson is Perry’s real estate attorney, Betchkal all but calls for Perry to recuse himself from the proceedings.

“You would think that Perry’s relationship with Lawson would require Perry to recuse himself. However, given the sordid history of subterfuge and intrigue with the Clear Space project, Lawson will likely receive a favorable hearing for his now client, Clear Space, before his other client, Perry,” said Betchkal.

In an email July 1, Perry said the statement is not accurate and is misleading.

“I have no intention to recuse myself from participating in the Clear Space/Spotlight applications,” said Perry. “It has always been and is my intention to be fully transparent in public at the planning commission meeting on July 10, 2020.”

In an email July 1, Paulson said, “Clear Space is very aware of Mr. Betchkal’s opinions on our proposed new theatre and his continued efforts to stop the project from going forward.”

Gene Lawson said there’s no conflict of interest for Perry. He said he represented a bank that helped Perry refinance, but not Perry himself.

Contrary to what the ad says, Lawson said Perry was represented by Wilmington-based attorneys in the 2015 suit against the city’s proposed moratorium on pools within the city. The attorneys were Todd A. Coomes and Travis S. Hunter.

Frankly, said Lawson, Betchkal doesn’t live in Rehoboth Beach anymore, and he said he’s not sure why Betchkal cares so much.

The site-plan review of the Clear Space proposal is scheduled to begin at noon, July 10.

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