Suit challenging Rehoboth’s accessibility headed to mediation

Confidential statements submitted
November 16, 2021

A lawsuit filed against Rehoboth Beach claiming the city doesn’t provide adequate accessible parking in the commercial district has been referred to mandatory mediation.

In April, plaintiffs Brigitte Hancharick, Ilse Payne and Robert Payne filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming the city does not provide sufficient accessible public street parking on Rehoboth Avenue and the blocks abutting it. The lawsuit argues the plaintiffs, and other people with disabilities, are harmed by denying and excluding them from a public service in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the lawsuit, filed by Richard H. Morse, an attorney for Wilmington-based Community Legal Aid Society, there are approximately 952 parking spaces on the perimeter of the 12 blocks abutting Rehoboth Avenue, between the Boardwalk and the lighthouse traffic circle. The lawsuit says the ADA requires 41 of those parking spaces to be at least 96 inches wide and identified by a sign 60 inches above the surface displaying the international symbol of handicap accessibility. However, says the suit, only 19 of the 952 parking spaces are so designated.

City commissioners conducted a special meeting Oct. 26, during which an executive session was held to get an update and legal advice on the case from City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas. When the public meeting reconvened, the only action taken by the commissioners was to adjourn.

In an email Oct. 28, Mandalas said under the district court rules, certain types of cases, like this one, are automatically referred to mandatory mediation. The case is presently on a mediation track and has been assigned to Chief Magistrate Judge Mary Pat Thynge, who will be the mediator, he said.

Mandalas said the parties filed confidential mediation statements with the judge Oct. 22. Under the court’s rules, the mediation is not open to the public, he said.

“If the case is not resolved through mediation, it will be put on a litigation track for further proceedings,” said Mandalas.

The first mediation session was conducted Nov. 5. During a Nov. 8 commissioner workshop, Mandalas said the session went well, but there was still work to do.

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