Rehoboth planning considers January public hearing for Clear Space

Partitioning requests for Rehoboth and Columbia avenue properties move ahead
November 17, 2020

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

With an eye toward conducting a second public hearing in January, the Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission is expected to resume discussing Clear Space Theatre Company’s Rehoboth Avenue theater proposal in December.

The planning commission is being forced to conduct a second public hearing on the proposed project because city commissioners, during an appeal hearing Nov. 12,  found the planning commission didn’t not follow city code related to the site-plan approval process when approving Clear Space’s site plan for 413, 415 and 417 Rehoboth Ave. Specifically, the commissioners found that the planning commission should not have conducted a public hearing in August because Clear Space hadn’t provided all the required information in a timely fashion.

Clear Space has proposed constructing two buildings at 413, 415 and 417 Rehoboth Ave. One building is Clear Space Theatre, a 256-seat traditional theater; the other is Rehoboth Spotlight, a rehearsal theater. A group of nearly two dozen people appealed the approval. 

Planning commissioners briefly discussed the city commissioners’ decision during their Nov. 13 meeting. Chair Jeffrey Trunzo had noticed an executive session related to Clear Space on the meeting agenda in anticipation of having to discuss the matter. He said he was concerned pushing a public hearing any further than January could unintentionally be making decisions for Clear Space related to its future. If there’s too much time taken, it could hurt everybody, he said.

Recognizing the controversial nature of the project, Trunzo suggested a special meeting to conduct the public hearing because it could bog down a regular meeting.

Planning Commissioner Steve Kauffman said he was fine with the planning commission moving forward in this manner with this specific proposal, but he said he was concerned it would be setting a precedent for how all future applications would have to be conducted. Information often comes in at the last minute that needs to be considered, so there needs to be some thought given to what’s best and most efficient for the city, he said.

Planning Commission Vice Chair Brian Patterson said he didn’t disagree with Kauffman. However, he continued, the city’s site-plan approval process has strict wording on how to proceed. It’s way above the minimum due process standards, but it’s what is in the code, he said.

54/56 Rehoboth Ave., 46 Columbia Ave. partitionings move to public hearing

By unanimous approval, the planning commission moved to public hearing the partitioning applications for 54 and 56 Rehoboth Ave. and 46 Columbia Ave. The move doesn’t mean the partitionings are approved; it means the applications have been substantially completed.

The commission began with the property on Rehoboth Avenue, which is home to Robin Hood Restaurant and Sunsations. The commercial district lot is owned by the Sunsations owners. 

Robin Hood owner Kosta Tsoukalas began the months-long partitioning process in June, with a concept review before the planning commission. Then in September, he went before the board of adjustment asking for variances needed for the partitioning to take place. Six variances were approved, three for each of the new lots formed – a reduction of the minimum frontage requirement from 50 feet, a reduction from the minimum lot area of 5,000 square feet, and relief from requirement that a lot must be able to contain in it a rectangle of 4,000 square feet.

As for 46 Columbia Ave., the property owners are looking to make the 125-by-100-foot lot into two lots, 62.5-by-100 feet. As with the house and garage already on the property, both lots would front Columbia Avenue. The house and garage would be demolished if the partitioning is approved.

Trunzo said he expected the applicants for both properties to submit paperwork so public hearings could be conducted during the Friday, Dec. 11 meeting.

Planning commission leadership selected

The planning commission began the meeting by electing its leadership for the next year – Trunzo was named chair, Patterson was named vice chair, and Commissioner Lee Weber was named secretary.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter