Rehoboth taking new approach to implement CDP

Previous ‘haphazard’ method has been used against the city in proposed developments
December 4, 2022

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach City Hall
229 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

It may have taken almost four years for Rehoboth Beach officials to complete the city’s new 2020 comprehensive development plan, but they’re not wasting time to implement the 330-page document.

The plan is a state-mandated document that each municipality has to redo every 10 years and update every five years. The document is a combination of a municipality’s history, its guiding principles and future action items to ensure those principles remain.

The city began work on the latest CDP in December 2018, but a number of reasons – planning commission turnover; a pandemic; high-profile, time-consuming project submissions; multiple consultants leaving – forced the city to ask the state for two year-long extensions. Ultimately, with a month to spare before a state-mandated deadline, commissioners approved the plan in June. Gov. John Carney signed off on the new plan Nov. 15.

During a commissioner meeting Nov. 18, Mayor Stan Mills said, in the past, CDP action items were acted on when commissioners showed a willingness to take one of the items on. It was haphazard, he said, but the plan now is to take a more methodical approach.

Mills said he spoke with one of the consultants months ago about how to best implement the plan, and he was told to prioritize action items and then find funding.

The city’s haphazardness and failure to implement some of the 2010 plan items has already led to one unfavorable outcome and could lead to more.

About a year ago, the team from the proposed Belhaven Hotel, planned for the south corner of Rehoboth Avenue and the Boardwalk, was granted a variance to exceed the city’s floor-to-area ratio of 2 by 50% to 3. Developers argued the city’s 2010 CDP encourages, and calls for, the revitalization of downtown Rehoboth Beach, especially the areas of Baltimore and Wilmington avenues. However, they said, in the 12 years since that CDP was passed, city officials had done little to adjust the zoning code to allow property owners to redevelop their properties in the manner described by the CDP. This contradiction, the team argued, fell under the “exceptional practical difficulties” portion of an area variance request. The board of adjustment agreed and granted the variance.

The approved variance was appealed by Commissioner Francis Markert, who was not a commissioner at the time, but a Superior Court judge ruled the board of adjustment did not err when it approved the request. Markert could have appealed the judge’s ruling to the Delaware Supreme Court, but chose not to pursue.

It’s an argument that could be used for other proposed projects – specifically, the recently proposed Grotto Pizza hotel on the north corner of Rehoboth Avenue and the Boardwalk. That team hasn’t come before the board of adjustment yet, but during a concept review before the planning commission Nov. 14, it showed a hotel with a floor-to-area ratio of 2.76

The topic of implementing the 2020 comprehensive plan was the last item on an agenda for a meeting that surpassed three-and-a-half hours, so discussion was limited. 

Mills tasked other commissioners with developing a 10-item prioritized list in advance of discussions in January for next year’s budget, which begins April 1. He said he’s also going to task the planning commission, the group responsible for creating all but the final details of the document, with producing a prioritized list. 

According to a support document created by Mills, city commissioners have until Monday, Dec. 5 to create their list, while planning commissioners have until Monday, Dec. 12.

Commissioner Jay Lagree said the city needs to hire more staff to help with implementation.

Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski said he thought the timetable was achievable and that he would like to see the planning commission's priorities.

Moving forward, Mills said, the city will review progress and implementation of action items annually.


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