Rehoboth: Side with planners on BeachWalk
Rehoboth's commissioners will hear an appeal next week from the owner of the Route 1 tract known as Bay Mart Shopping Center. The owner wants to develop the 7.75-acre parcel into a 63-unit residential project.
Rehoboth's planning commission members insist the proposal should be subject to subdivision requirements dictating land use, such as building setbacks, street widths and parking. The owner disagrees, saying his condominium-style scheme takes it out of the subdivision category with its restrictive requirements. He wants the commissioners to overrule the planners and direct them to consider the project as submitted.
We can't presume to know what the real endgame is here other than what appears to be an attempt to circumvent Rehoboth's residential rules. This project will develop a unique and valuable property; trying to maximize profit is understandable. What doesn't make sense is presenting a plan that public safety and traffic experts have shown is seriously flawed, presenting dangerous fire and crash hazards.
Given the persistence of the developer in not submitting a subdivision plan, it's likely this case will eventually go to court. There, let the lawyers and judges sort out the legalities. But in the meantime, Rehoboth's commissioners should send a clear signal that as designed, this project is unsafe and worthy of no more consideration until the safety concerns have been addressed. Many serious concerns would likely be resolved if the project were designed according to the subdivision standards as the planning commission suggests.
Rehoboth's planning commission members have traditionally been fair-minded and deliberative in their decisions. They're not out to deny a property owner his rightful opportunities.
The commissioners should heed public testimony, a petition with hundreds of signatures and the views of safety officials, and stand behind their planning commission. Sending any other signal - particularly in light of the serious traffic and fire safety issues raised - would be an irresponsible disservice to all the residents and property owners of the city.