With less than three weeks to go before Memorial Day weekend, Rehoboth Beach commissioners have scheduled a special meeting May 12 to discuss a comprehensive action plan for reopening the city.
It would be the first public meeting of this kind since City Manager Sharon Lynn ordered a shut down of the beach and Boardwalk March 21 and nonessential businesses March 23. The scheduling of the meeting came one day after commissioners let Lynn and Mayor Paul Kuhns know they are frustrated commissioners and the public have been left out of critical decisions for the city.
Among their top concerns were rumors the city was building a wall on the Boardwalk and the need for a plan to reopen the city. During a commissioner workshop May 4, a system to allow property owners to use the beach and closing some streets to allow space for outdoor eating were among the ideas discussed.
Commissioner Lisa Schlosser said it was time to get more input from community members and businesses. There are options, she said.
“Now is the time to embark on opening up the community,” she said.
Echoing Schlosser’s comments, Commissioner Ed Chrzanowski said it was time to create a collaborative recovery plan. Making decisions in a vacuum is not the way to operate, he said.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi said she was also in favor of a comprehensive plan. The city needs to embrace innovation, she said.
“It’s important to have all the commissioners involved,” she said.
Kuhns said he’s been talking with members of the business community and the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce. Separately from Kuhns, Schlosser and Chrzanowski said they had been meeting with business owners too. Establishing a subcommittee was suggested, but Kuhns said he was concerned with meeting Freedom of Information Act requirements if the subcommittee had a quorum.
In addition to voicing frustration, commissioners wanted to talk about how the city would accommodate the reopening of businesses that front only the Boardwalk.
Schlosser said she had heard rumors a wall was being built on the Boardwalk.
Kuhns said the rumors were overblown. He said Lynn and the police department were discussing how to enforce the closure of the Boardwalk, while still allowing businesses to prepare for the season.
Lynn said this is the time of year Boardwalk businesses are getting ready to open, so something must be done. Anticipating the continued closure of the Boardwalk, she said, a barrier is the best way to begin the economic recovery for businesses on the Boardwalk.
Police Chief Keith Banks said the plan is not to install anything that would block the view. However, he said, there needs to be something that isn’t going to blow over and lets people know where they can and can’t walk.
Police Lt. Jamie Riddle said the idea is to make a 20-foot-wide path allowing access to businesses that front the Boardwalk, which is the same for businesses on Rehoboth Avenue. If it’s not done correctly, it could go terribly wrong, he said.
Commissioner Dick Byrne said it was all about messaging. He said the city could call it a safe walkway, instead of a barrier, which sounds negative.
Other commissioner suggestions for reopening include beach tags to control the number of people on the beach, blocking off parts of streets for outdoor dining and a system where property owners could have access to the beach.
The special meeting is scheduled to begin online at 9 a.m., Tuesday, May 12.
Public participation rules
Members of the public will be allowed to participate in the special meeting, but with limited access. Members of the public who wish to speak will be required to preregister with Ann Womack, city secretary, at firstname.lastname@example.org at least two full business days prior to the meeting.
Citizen comment will be administered by a moderator. Speaking is not allowed until called upon. Members of the public can also submit comments electronically to Womack. All comments shall be submitted at least two full business days prior to the meeting date.
Meeting materials is accessible on the city's portal at cityofrehoboth.civicweb.net.