Rehoboth Ave. projects move to site-plan hearing

Commissioners, attorney squabble over code compliance
April 20, 2024

Story Location:
413, 415, 417 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

A trio of proposed mixed-use structures on Rehoboth Avenue took a step forward April 11, when the Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission unanimously voted in favor of moving the projects forward to a site-plan review public hearing. 

Located at 413, 415 and 417 Rehoboth Ave., the properties are owned under three separate LLCs by local Realtor Dave McCarthy. He purchased them from Clear Space Theatre Company, which tried for years to get approval for a new theater on the three lots.

Attorney Vince Robertson is representing McCarthy through the approval process. McCarthy doesn’t want any of the drama that was associated with Clear Space, said Robertson.

Robertson said these properties are among the first things seen when entering the city and one of the last things seen as people leave. The proposed buildings don’t match the surrounding neighborhood, but in a good way, he said, pointing to The Ark condominiums to the east and Royal Farms to the west.

McCarthy has proposed three mixed-use buildings, each with commercial space on the first floor and a two-story, five-bedroom apartment above. Robertson said they would be in the style of the building at 48 Wilmington Ave., a Rehoboth-style cottage that’s pretty straightforward, he said.

This was the second time the proposed buildings went in front of the planning commission. Previously, during a meeting in late 2023, there were concerns about the second-floor patio space being allowed within setbacks and the floor-to-area ratio.

Architect Jeff Schoellkopf, who designed the building on Wilmington Avenue, said there appear to be changes in interpretation from the previous building inspector to the current one, but those issues have been addressed since the first meeting.

Commissioner Jim Ellison asked why there were no closets provided for the bedrooms.

McCarthy said he’s following code. If there was a restriction, he would follow it, he said, adding that there are no plans for the residential rental units at this point.

Planning Commissioner Susan Stewart asked about the height of the structures.

Robertson said the city building official and planning consultant have both issued a report saying that the plans are code compliant. That led to some back and forth between planning commissioners and Robertson related to who has the final say in code compliance. Robertson said it was vested in the city’s building official. Michael Bryan, planning commission chair, said there are questions about that line of reasoning.

Months ago, in an effort to clarify questions, the planning commission sent suggested code changes to the city that would give the planning commission the explicit right of determining code compliance. City commissioners have not taken the issue up for discussion yet.

Following the back and forth between his attorney and the planning commission, McCarthy said he felt like he was being tricked. It’s been almost two years since the process started and it could go on for 10, he said.

Sharon Covington, who lives on St. Lawrence Street, said she was perplexed with the planning commission’s attitude. She said the planning commission was using an obstructionist approach.

Bryan defended the questioning of the project and the board’s pace of work. 

Stewart also defended the planning commission’s actions. The planning commission’s job is to point out discrepancies, she said.

Ultimately, the planning commission voted unanimously in favor of moving the three projects to the public hearing portion of the site-plan process. The hearings have been scheduled for the planning commission’s May 10 meeting.

No decision made on 54 Kent St. partitioning

The continuation of a requested partitioning at 54 Kent St. that was supposed to take place during the April 11 meeting was postponed at the request of the applicants.

The owners of the property received approval of a variance request to allow for an encroachment ranging from 0.2 to 0.4 feet, or 12.88 square feet, into the eastern side-yard setback.

Bryan said the applicant chose to delay action while city commissioners take up a suggested wording change to city code related to partitioning requests that was inadvertently removed when city commissioners made changes to that section of code a few months ago.


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