The Rehoboth Beach commissioners are set to approve an ordinance that would ban canopies, cooking devices and covered tents from the beach.
Under terms of the ordinance, only umbrellas up to 7 1/2-feet and small baby changing tents would be allowed. The ordinance will be up for a vote Friday, March 17. If approved, the ordinance would go into effect Monday, May 15.
The ordinance was created in response to concerns raised by the Rehoboth Beach Patrol and the Rehoboth Beach Police Department over an increase in what they called “tent cities,” groups of canopies gathered together that, city officials say, block the views and pathways of lifeguards and other beachgoers, look unsightly and make it difficult to detect people using alcohol, and other illegal activities.
The only exception to the ordinance is for permitted events, such as weddings on the beach.
Commissioner Stan Mills, author of the ordinance, read four letters from citizens in opposition to the ordinance, with concerns ranging from canopies protecting people with sensitive skin to those who support a ban on allowing tents tied together, but wished to allow solo canopies. The commissioners rejected allowing individual canopies, saying that it would be difficult to enforce.
Commissioner Lorraine Zellers said she supported the ban after talking with town officials in Myrtle Beach, which has had a similar ban for four years. Zellers said Myrtle Beach’s ban has worked and that the key is to give people plenty of lead time to become educated on the ordinance.
Violations of the ordinance would be met with a warning first, with repeat violations being a civil offense subject to a $25 fine. City officials plan to print a flier given out at the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center, lifeguards and in renter check-in bags handed out by real estate companies.