Rehoboth Beach Commissioner Candidates Speak (RBHOA/CAMP REHOBOTH, CAPE GAZETTE, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE)

Rehoboth candidates square off in first forum


Municipal election set for Aug. 11

Cape Gazette July 31
By Ryan Mavity


 

Three candidates for two com­missioner seats in Rehoboth Beach made their pitch to voters at the July 27 CAMP Rehoboth/Rehoboth Beach Homeowners’ Association can­didates forum. The candidates – incumbents Patrick Gossett and Bill Sargent and newcomer Toni Sharp – each made opening statements de­scribing themselves and laying out why citizens should vote for them.

Gossett, seeking a full term af­ter being appointed to fill the re­mainder of Kathy McGuiness’ term, said he has been coming to Rehoboth since he was a child, buying a home in town in 1996.

He has served in city govern­ment in some capacity, either as a city commissioner or a plan­ning commissioner, since 1998, apart from a one-year break in 2008.

Gossett said he was proud to have taken part in the writing of two comprehensive develop­ment plans, the 2005 plan and the 2010 plan.

Gossett said his future priori­ties are preserving the environ­mental health and character of the city. He pointed out his au­thoring the resolution charging the planning commission to cre­ate ordinances to better protect the city’s lakes, and beginning the process of revising the tree ordinance.

“I enjoy this job and hope that you allow me to continue serving in that position,” Gossett said.

Sargent, who first won a seat in 2009 after serving on the board of adjustment, said his family first came to Rehoboth 29 years ago and has grown to enjoy the city more every year. Sargent has spent his professional life run­ning his own computer program­ming business.

He said the city has been very well run, particularly in regard to the city’s financial position. Sar­gent said he wants to see the city’s ocean outfall project through to its construction, and would also like the city increase its tree canopy cover.

He said the city needs to opti­mize parking for cars, bikes and scooters, and improve pedestri­an safety.

“I try to work very hard. I try to treat others with immense re­spect. I try to get to the bottom of issues. I hope you will send me back again,” Sargent said.

Sharp, originally from Dallas, moved to Rehoboth in 1999, and is taking her first crack at politi­cal office after retiring and be­coming a full-time Rehoboth res­ident. She cited her experience working 42 years helping federal employees with their health in­surance as a qualification.

Sharp said her professional ex­perience taught her how to build consensus and work within a long-range plan, delivering re­sults on time and on budget. She said she decided to run to give the citizens of Rehoboth a choice of someone who plans ahead of time rather than reacting.

Sharp called her vision of Re­hoboth “Rehoboth Beach 2020,” a long-term plan that uses the comprehensive development plan as its blueprint. She said if elected, she would like to be the architect of implementing the comprehensive plan.

The bulk of the forum was dedicated to taking questions from the audience, with each candidate allowed two minutes to respond.

Frank Cooper of Scarborough Avenue Extended asked the can­didates about lots being clear-cut and the city’s attempt to increase its tree canopy.

Sargent said the tree canopy – the amount of ground covered by trees when viewed from the air – has increased citywide. He said while he would like to keep every tree, lot owners have the right to cut some trees down, al­though they must have at least three trees.

“It’s tough. We’ve all read about the instances that have happened. If I had a whole bunch of trees next to me that went down, I’d be darn sad. But, un­derstand that the people who build something have certain rights. If there is clear-cutting, that is dead wrong.”

Sharp said there is a discon­nect between the spirit of the tree ordinance and how it is en­forced.

When the ordinance was passed, she said, there was not a complementary implementation plan that made clear how the or­dinance would be enforced.

'It is not good enough to have an ordinance that does not have a complementary implementa­tion plan or something that puts teeth into it,” she said.

Gossett said he favored talking to homeowners and city enforce­ment officials to find a way to re­vise the tree ordinance to protect trees while also protecting the rights of homeowners.

“There has got to be a way to improve this tree ordinance and also give the flexibility to home­owners so they can enjoy their properties. To me, it’s working that out,” he said.

Libby Stiff, also of Scarbor­ough Avenue Extended, asked the candidates what their com­mitment is to putting the com­prehensive plan in effect.

Sargent said, “I think we have to carefully pick those things that we should do immediately. I view the comprehensive devel­opment plan as something that has enormous value, but it’s a lit­tle like brainstorming. It gets out ahead. It thinks about things we could do. It doesn’t say that we should do everything. It won’t be done overnight.”

Sharp said, “It should be a very deliberate exercise. It should have happened in 2003, to take that plan and figure out how we are going to make it real, how are you going to make it tangible, how are you going to phase it in and what is it going to cost. It needs to be done, now.”

Gossett said the city has been deliberately working through the plan.

“There are 24 priority points that are outlined. Since the CDP has been certified, the city has ei­ther completed or acted upon 14 of those 24 points. It’s a five-year plan. This is the blueprint. This is the plan. There’s more to do, but we have accomplished 14 of the 24 points in the comprehensive development plan,” he said.

Finally, the candidates were asked about how they would communicate with the voters be­tween elections.

Gossett said the city needs to do a better job of communicat­ing, and he would propose hiring a full-time city information offi­cer.

“That would be an individual that would be like an air traffic controller of communication. We don’t send a consistent mes­sage because we don’t have one area that controls or orchestrates that message. That’s one of the key items I would like to pursue,” he said.

Sargent said the city tries to communicate through its newsletter and website, but agreed that the city could do a better job.

Sharp said she sees no barriers to better communicating with the voters, and that she would champion outreach to residents to get information.

'I would be the type of com­missioner that would constantly want to know, ‘How am I doing?’” she said.

The Rehoboth municipal elec­tion will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 11,
at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center

Three vie for two seats in Rehoboth

Polls to open at 10 a.m. Aug. 11, Convention Center

By Ryan Mavity | Aug 03, 2012
Cape Gazette

Rehoboth Beach — The final countdown is on before Rehoboth Beach voters head to the polls to choose their next two city commissioners.

Citizens will elect two of three candidates for city commissioner seats. In the race are incumbents Patrick Gossett and Bill Sargent and Silver Lake resident and newcomer Toni Sharp. Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 11, at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.

The three candidates were asked to answer five questions in 150 words or less.

1. Please tell us about yourself, including age, educational background and work experience as it relates to the position you seek.

Gossett, 58: Having previously served as city commissioner from 2004-07, I have again served as a Rehoboth Beach city commissioner since January 2012. In my role as a planning commissioner for 11 years, I was one of the authors of the city's 2005 and 2010 comprehensive development plans, the blueprints for land use and planning in the city.

I worked for 12 years for the American Association of Museums, where I gained a deep knowledge of working with boards and forming consensus to accomplish results. Previously, I was a director of sales and marketing with Hilton hotels.

I am a member of CAMP Rehoboth and the Rehoboth Art League and have been on the board of the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society.

I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Management from Florida International University and participated in continuing education at the Culinary Institute of America and Wharton School of Business.

Sargent, 74: I graduated as a political science major from Yale in 1961 and then went to graduate school at Syracuse University studying public administration. I worked for five years in the Office of the Secretary of Defense before going to New York as a financial analyst, where I focused on analysis, planning, budgeting and accounting. I came to Delaware in 1977 as a senior financial manager. In 1980, I formed a company to develop financial analysis software that allows financial institutions to forecast their income and expense and to analyze financial risks. I have recently retired.

Sharp, 61: I began my career in Dallas, Texas in 1969, shortly after completing Bishop Lynch College Preparatory.  I was extremely anxious to embark on my 42-year career of service.

After being employed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas for 22 years, I accepted a national position with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and focused solely on serving the people who serve the people of the United States: federal employees.  One of my roles with the association was to communicate effectively with millions of households of federal employees explaining their health insurance benefits.  Equally important was my role in working productively and cohesively with representatives of 39 Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies across the nation on behalf of federal employees.

I retired in the spring of 2011 to the Rehoboth Beach property I bought in 1999.  I have chosen to make Rehoboth Beach my home.

The skills and competencies developed during my career that translate to the city commissioner position are well-honed strategic planning and budgeting skills, a forward-looking rather than reactive approach, consensus building, delivering results with accountability and getting the job done

2. The city has begun taking steps towards possibly rebuilding the City Hall complex. Do you support these efforts? How big a priority do you think upgrading the city's municipal facilities is?

Gossett: I am pleased that the city is looking ahead and investigating a new municipal building. Our initial objective was to examine badly-needed upgrades to our police force’s antiquated and cramped facilities, but we must also plan for the growth of every department as we attract more residents and visitors. The initial needs assessment has been completed in consultation with all our city departments to anticipate their future staffing, IT and space requirements.

Our City Hall Task Force, made up of commissioners, department heads and residents, is reviewing options for a facility that will accommodate our future needs. As with all city projects, we will not proceed with construction without a firm financial plan and knowing we have the money to build the facility.

I am often heard to say, “If we don’t manage our growth, it will manage us” and this is a great example of planning for the future.

Sargent: Obviously the city can do its job well with the current facilities, but they are nearly 50 years old and hopelessly out of date. It is certainly time to begin planning for new facilities. Hopefully we will be ready to construct new facilities shortly after the wastewater project is complete.

Sharp: My vision for Rehoboth Beach 2020 includes a long-term strategic and financial plan.  This plan hinges on the roadmap that currently exists in the comprehensive development plan.   Couple implementation and enforcement with a long-term financial plan, including critical milestones and deliverables, and the citizens of Rehoboth Beach will have a tangible roadmap that works!

I support the feasibility study of a new city hall.  Equally important is answering the question: How does this project fit into the overall long-term plan and where does it fall in the priority order?  Along with the community, I need to see and evaluate the entire picture including funding options and other implications of such a large project.

3. This summer seems to be a banner year for bicycle and pedestrian traffic in Rehoboth. What ways do you think the city can best manage this influx? What specific options would you propose?

Gossett: The city has responded quickly to the increased number of bicycles, pedestrians and scooters in town this summer. More people – instead of more cars – is a positive development but we must keep everyone safe.

In order to create a safer environment, we have implemented several recommendations from the Streets and Transportation Committee: new signs around town indicate streets that are safe for bicycle riders; designated bike-parking areas create both a safe place to park and improve sight lines at busy intersections; pedestrian crossing signs will be tested in selected places; and scooter parking areas will keep these vehicles off the sidewalk where they are a danger to pedestrians.

There are more options to consider, but first we must test these steps and measure their results. I have been a constant voice at commission meetings advocating for sound and current data to guide our decisions for next season and beyond.

Sargent: I strongly support the current efforts to experiment with various parking arrangements for bicycles and scooters. I think that it is healthy for residents and for the business community if, when in town, people rely less on the automobile and more on walking and riding.

Sharp: Reaction to the scooter parking issue should be viewed in a broader context.  My vision of Rehoboth Beach 2020 provides long-term solutions that should be part of an integrated plan to handle an influx of additional bicycles, scooters, pedestrians and surreys, including any and all other methods of getting around our city.  I look forward to these discussions taking place without delay.

I support the short-term solution proposed by Commissioner Coluzzi and the committee to utilize parking places too small for cars in a pilot program for the remainder of the scooter season, which can stretch well into the shoulder season.  Work on the long-term solution should begin immediately.

4. Steps have been taken recently with an eye towards improving the health of the city's lakes, specifically Silver Lake, such as the possibility of dredging the west end and the Planning Commission's work on recommendations to better protect the lakes. How would you see to it that these options are continued and how do you think the lakes can be improved?

Gossett: The city had great success with the buffer around Lake Gerar. Silver Lake is a more complicated challenge, because we share the shoreline with Sussex County and Dewey Beach.

Because the health of Silver Lake is an urgent issue, I wrote the resolution charging the Planning Commission, where the greatest knowledge resides on this issue. They have worked with environmental experts, homeowners, neighbors, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and Sussex County to develop protective recommendations.

The planning commission will present its report to the city commission in coming weeks. I have called for a joint meeting of both commissions so we can get a detailed understanding of their recommendations. It is the responsibility of the city commissioners to implement the recommendations through ordinances and regulations. Just as the planning commission had a specific time frame, we must hold ourselves accountable to take action within a set period of time. The lake cannot afford more years of discussion.

Sargent: We need to dredge the west end of Silver Lake to a depth of 3 feet so that the water can be aerated as has been done successfully for Lake Gerar. But we also need to improve the stormwater drains so silt does not enter the lake as it has before and to minimize the amount of nutrients that drain into the lake. Unfortunately, the nutrients that make lawns healthy also contribute to algae growth in the lake. Dredging and other steps require state help and financing, so we can't move as rapidly as we might like, but this summer's problems have fortunately brought the lake a great deal of needed attention.

Sharp: As part of Rehoboth Beach 2020 my main objective is to implement and enforce the CDP.  This not only pertains to improving the lakes, but other important community provisions that have never been implemented.

Rather than treating Silver Lake as a stormwater receptacle, we should get serious about improving its health.  Sediment removal has been an issue for residents and the community for years with no response from the city.

The CDP includes recommendations for a buffer ordinance but has languished for almost a decade with no action by the city.  It literally took a house being built into the lake to get any action to implement the buffer ordinance.

If the status quo continues, with no action or long-term plan, there is likely to be another crisis the city will have to react to.  We need a serious task force to tackle all of the issues relating to the three Rehoboth lakes, which were declared national treasures by the Delaware Assembly.

5. Grotto, Nicola or Louie's?

Gossett: Grotto’s for delivery – 227-FAST!

Nicola’s – a two for one – Conversations with Joan and a Nic-o-boli.

Louie’s - for the best cheesesteak in town.

Sargent: Definitely, all of the above!

Sharp: I am Italian.  Anything that includes sauce, cheese and garlic is the perfect food!

The Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce sponsors a Candidates’ Forum – August 7

Aug. 07, 2012 From: 9:30am - 10:45 am. Opon to the public

The Rehoboth Beach – Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce it will host a Candidates’ Forum on Tuesday, August 7, 2012 beginning at 9:30 AM in the Rehoboth Beach Conventional Hall Conference Suite.  The forum will end at approximately one hour and 15 minutes from the start time.

The Chamber has invited all declared candidates, Resident Patrick Gossett, Resident Bill Sargent, and Resident Toni Sharp. Matt Turlinski, Chairman of the Board of Directors of RBDBCC will provide introductions and Dennis Forney, Publisher - Cape Gazette will serve as Moderator.  Chip Hearn, Member of the RBDBCC Board of Directors will act as Timekeeper, enforcing all rules and procedures.

Candidates for the office of commissioner will be presented in alphabetical order and allowed a one (1) minute self-introduction.  The full forum will continue with six (6) questions prepared by RBDBCC and unknown to the candidates.  All candidates will draw two questions.  The candidate drawing the first question will have one (1) minute to respond followed by a one (1) minute response from all candidates alphabetically. The forum will end with a Q& A session, the event timeline allows for a maximum of six (6) questions taken from the floor and directed to the candidates.

Questions taken from the floor may be no longer than one (1) minute in length and non-repetitive.  Questions may be directed to one (1) specific candidate or all candidates.  Candidates will be allowed a one (1) minute response for the question from the floor. For additional information please contact Kate Bell at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (302) 227-2233 x11.

Three seek two seats in Rehoboth

Candidates speak at Chamber of Commerce Forum

By Ryan Mavity | Aug 10, 2012
Photo by: Ryan Mavity Three candidates will square off for two commissioner seats in the Saturday, Aug. 11 Rehoboth Beach municipal election. The candidates are (l-r) Patrick Gossett, Bill Sargent and Toni Sharp.

Rehoboth Beach — With Rehoboth Beach’s election right around the corner, three candidates for two commissioner seats got their final word in to voters before polls open Saturday, Aug. 11.

The candidates – incumbents Patrick Gossett and Bill Sargent and newcomer Toni Sharp – answered questions from the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce and citizens Aug. 7 at the chamber’s candidates’ forum. The winning candidates will serve three-year terms.

Gossett previously served as commissioner from 2004-07 and in January was appointed to fill the seat of Kathy McGuiness after she stepped down. He said he hoped voters would judge him on his experience and record of accomplishment, citing his work on two comprehensive development plans, the FAR ordinance and, recently, instigating an effort to improve Silver Lake.

Sargent, seeking a second term after first being elected in 2009, previously served on the board of adjustment and also cited his experience and knowledge as reasons to send him back to office.

Sharp, a political newcomer, has lived in Rehoboth since 1999 and became a full-time resident last year, when she retired after more than 40 years working in the healthcare industry. Sharp said she hopes to bring a fresh perspective and strategic planning to the city commission.

While last year's forum was more high-profile because the mayor's seat was up for grabs, this year's forum, moderated by Cape Gazette publisher Dennis Forney, was a more subdued affair, with only about 15 people in attendance.

The candidates answered questions from the chamber before taking questions from the audience.

Q: With regard to noise, it has been a year since the city hired an enforcement officer. Is it your view that this has helped control the noise and would you support retaining this position?

Sharp said she would first want to understand the benefits of the noise ordinance.

"Are we improving the quality of our lives or are we just an irritant?" she asked. Sharp said the city should evaluate the feasibility of the code enforcement position to determine whether the city should maintain that position in the short and long-term.

Gossett said there have been fewer noise complaints and violations this year. He said the code enforcement officer has provided actual data to see what’s going on.

"I think the vast majority of businesses want to play by the rules. Our goal was to have a great business environment and one that is truly all in fairness. I think that is what we have done,” Gossett said.

Sargent said, “Businesses really want to comply, but it’s so easy to let the noise go up a little bit. It’s not a policeman on the beat. It’s kind of a friendly person from the city. I think it has had a very good effect on the city. I fully support continuing his position.”

Q: “Given that we have just been named among the best in the nation for beach and water quality, how do you plan on handling any possible negative perception the ocean outfall may create?”

Sargent said, “There are some people who are so against anything in the ocean that it is going to be very difficult. The truth is, just about 15 miles south of us, we’ve had an ocean outfall there for 40-odd years, and it’s never had one single failure."  He said the water that is dumped into the canal is almost to drinking standards and will have an absolutely minimal impact on the ocean.

Sharp said, “I would take a real proactive approach on this.... We would need a very strong educational program to help all our residents and visitors to understand what our position is and what the facts tell us about ocean outfall.”

Gossett agreed further education is needed. He said the distillation rate at the outfall site is 10,000 to 1, the pipe is a mile offshore and 40 feet deep on the ocean floor. Gossett said the city's sewage plant can hold two days worth of sewage if there is a problem with the pumping station.

"It really is a nonissue in many regards. But it is an education process, letting people know about that information, ” he said.

Q: “What do you believe is the No.1 complaint aired by visitors, residents or business owners?”

Sharp: “What I hear is congestion, congestion, congestion. I hear it from visitors as well as residents. And the answer to that is we’ve got to have a long-range plan to deal with the ‘more’ that Rehoboth is going to be experiencing."

She said the city has to take a very assertive and proactive approach to dealing with all types of congestion to understand what it will be facing.

Gossett said congestion and parking were the No.1 complaint.

"I look at it as a double-edged sword. If we didn’t have a parking problem we wouldn’t have people here supporting our businesses, supporting our community. It is a difficult problem to manage because it is cyclical. There’s more to be done, but we have made some inroads into the congestion,” he said

Sargent said parking was the biggest complaint, although it is a problem that happens relatively few days out of the year.

"It really is a manageable problem. I’m aware of how much it affects somebody because they have to drive an extra block to find something. But I think that is a manifestation of the health of this community, and, like Patrick said, how good it is for the business community that they want to come,” he said.

Q: “If you could change or improve only one thing in downtown Rehoboth, what would it be?”

Sharp said congestion and safety.

Gossett said, “That’s a unique question, I think, from the standpoint of we all talk about preservation of the character of Rehoboth so change is kind of an odd way to look at that." He said the key to any change is communication, and he would propose a public information officer for the city that would help educate residents, visitors and businesspeople on what is going on in the city.

"My dad used to say the only things that don’t change are fools and dead men. I think it is communicating that change in a proper way,” Gossett said.

Sargent said safety. "To know that somehow visitors who come here, who sometimes leave their common sense at the bridge, could be a lot safer. That’s my wish,” he said.

Audience member Richard Kirchhoff asked the candidates about the proposed dock and water taxi along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.

Sharp said the city's current track of looking at the feasibility of the project is the right thing to do.

"What are the challenges? What are the threats, if any? And what would the infrastructure need to be in order to pull off a project like that? And what do we get out of it on a long-term basis? I think the city’s approach to it has been the right thing to do. To make some thoughtful decisions around it, and then, as part of a longer-range plan, how does it stack up with other priorities?” she said.

Gossett said enhancement of the canal was part of the 2010 comprehensive development plan, and now is a great time to explore it.

"Whether it be a useful taxi tool, or a tourist attraction, or an environmental attraction for ecotourism, the city is currently committed to doing a geotechnical study to see if we can even sustain a dock there. We have to look at that. The devil is in the details,” he said.

Sargent said while he is currently unconvinced a water taxi could work, at least in regard to financing, he is trying to keep an open mind.

"I’m not convinced. But I’d love to be,” he said.

Kirchhoff also asked the candidates if they believed the city acted properly in issuing a building permit for the house at 6 Silver Lane, which stirred controversy earlier this year for its close proximity to Silver Lake.

Gossett said based on the information presented to the building inspector, the city did handle it correctly. He said the board of adjustment also followed the rules properly in deciding not to hear an appeal of the building permit.

Sargent said while it would have been nice if the board had heard the case, they did act within the rules.

"It is what it is, but it's a darn shame," he said.

Sharp said, "What bothers me is, an open and transparent government, in my opinion, would have provided the opportunity for all kinds of information to be vetted. In the absence of that, we have the situation we currently have, like it or not."

She said she hopes the situation teaches the city a valuable lesson, and if elected, she would be committed to making sure it doesn't happen again.

The Rehoboth election will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.