The number of barriers blocking parking spots on the first two blocks of Rehoboth Avenue has been significantly reduced.
During a special meeting June 16, commissioners voted in favor of removing enough barriers to open about 130 parking spaces. The move came just over two weeks after hundreds of barriers were installed to create a pedestrian walkway so visitors could practice social distancing. However, the walkways were little used by pedestrians and only a few businesses took advantage of the expanded space; many other businesses complained the setup was driving away customers.
On the north side of Rehoboth Avenue, barriers remain in front of Claws Seafood House, and on the south side, barriers remain in two stretches – from Kaisy’s Delights to Indigo on the first block, and from Purple Parrot to Cilantro Cocina de Mexico on the second block.
Commissioners also voted to change all the parking in the horseshoe around the Bandstand from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
City Manager Sharon Lynn and Public Works Director Kevin Williams created the plan over the past week after being tasked by commissioners to do so. Lynn said the city began removing barriers June 17.
The city rented the barriers for two months. According to a press release, installing the barriers and ramps accessing the sidewalks from the walkway cost the city roughly $55,000. Williams said the city is storing the barriers at the wastewater treatment facility. He said when the ramps were installed, a layer of sand was put between the asphalt and the bottom of the ramp so they could be removed more easily.
Williams said there are still going to be some retail stores behind barriers, but sidewalk obstructions meant it didn’t make sense to remove more barriers because only one or two more spots would be gained. Also, he said, it would begin to create a sawtooth design.
Moving forward, Lynn said if a restaurant or retail store wants to use the sidewalk, it will have to be done within the parameters of the new barrier setup.
Prior to voting in favor of the change, Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski reminded everyone the reason for the barriers was to promote social distancing along the city’s busiest commercial district. He said he recognized the additional parking spots will be beneficial to the businesses, but there will now be an additional 130 carloads of people on Rehoboth Avenue and the Boardwalk.
Commissioner Lisa Schlosser cast the only vote against removing the barriers. She said people were using the walkway this past weekend, and the people she talked with were happy it was there.
Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carol Everhart has been participating in the city’s special meetings since they began over a month ago. When asked by Mayor Paul Kuhns what she thought of the changes, Everhart said she thinks businesses on Rehoboth Avenue and around the Bandstand will like them.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi said she would like to see all restaurants section off sidewalk dining areas so pedestrians can’t walk through them.
City Code Enforcement Officer Dennis Jeney said if a restaurant isn’t serving alcohol, the city can only encourage management to put up a barrier around seating. If alcohol is served, barriers are required by the state, he said.
The barriers that remain are expected to be in place through at least July 31. Past that date, Mayor Paul Kuhns said the city can keep the barriers up, but the decision to allow restaurants to continue to serve alcohol on sidewalk space will be made by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner.
In addition to changes in Rehoboth Avenue parking, commissioners also agreed to not have a special reopening Rehoboth meeting next week. The meetings have been held weekly on Tuesdays since May 12. Officials are expected to resume the special meetings Tuesday, June 30.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the barriers have been removed.