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Rehoboth, take closer look at demolitions

February 9, 2020

Rehoboth Beach is about to pass a significant milestone. The resort is about to approve its 200th building demolition since 2012.

Some might call that a dubious milestone, alarming; others might call it dramatic, but not unusual for an evolving beach resort nearing its 150-year mark. Few would say 200 demolitions in seven years is unremarkable.

A recent Gazette article chronicled the demolitions, which set a new annual record of 34 in 2019. The article included photos of four houses recently approved for a date with the wrecking crew. None looked like dumps.

Rather, despite their distinctive architectural styles, they were unified by an appearance of beach cottage charm.

Not trying to be sentimental, those four photos nonetheless conveyed a sense of loss that begs further examination.

Maybe preservation is not an important element of the Rehoboth Beach experience, and the demolitions don’t deserve much more than an observation. But there may be more going on than just old cottages being torn down to be replaced with new.

One resident recently bemoaned the loss of the older homes and their chimneys, conveniently used in the summertime by bug-eating chimney swifts. Are there other considerations worth examination?

Is Rehoboth losing breathing space when older, smaller homes are replaced with wider, taller homes? Is Rehoboth losing larger, older trees because of bigger homes being constructed and the newer regulations that apply to them? Could the fee structure be modified to incentivize preserving homes instead of demolishing them?

Once these structures that have helped define Rehoboth’s charm for so many decades are gone, they will be gone forever.

A preservation specialist, for a few thousand dollars, could provide insight on what’s happening – pros and cons – and offer suggestions for incentives that could encourage preservation for those who deem it valuable.

The mayor and commissioners would then have informed guidance on action of their choosing, rather than blindly approving, without question, every demolition application that comes along.

 

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, publisher emeritus, and Laura Ritter, news editor, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.

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