Joint Meeting City Commissioners and Planning Commission Sept. 12, 2014

Joint Meeting of the City Commission and Planning Commission

September 12, 2014


The Mayor and Commissioners met on September 12, 2014 to discuss growing land use issues, specifically the impact of swimming pools and large “commercialized” homes in residential areas. The meeting was among the most widely attended in recent memory with over 100 citizens in attendance. The Mayor and all City Commissioners were present except Commissioner Hunker. All Planning Commissioners were present except Commissioners Konesey, Mellen and Patterson.

It was announced by Mayor Cooper that this session would be in the form of a workshop to receive the report of the Planning Commission. In such meetings, public comment is not usually taken, however the Mayor announced that due to the substantial public interest, there would be opportunity for public comment, limited to three minutes per person. The Mayor remarked that over 60 letters have been received by the Mayor and Commissioners on these subjects, and requested that those who have written letters keep their points brief and not repeat issues.

Planning Commission Chairman Littleton introduced the issue as one which has arisen because of the examination of trees and natural area. The Planning Commission felt it was important for the issues to be discussed, in order to then examine solutions.

Planning Commissioner Michael Strange presented a PowerPoint presentation regarding land use issues, available on the City website, He emphasized the need to define and prioritize key issues and to create a plan to solve them. He recognized that solutions will not be proposed or reached today.

Symptoms identified in Planning Commissioner Strange's report included: increased nuisance noise, light pollution, insufficient off-street parking to support the ratio of bedrooms, increased storm water run-off, loss of trees and tree root systems, loss of property separation with non-roofed buildings and structures in setbacks.

It was made clear that it is necessary to pose the right questions to get to the right answers, and that this was the principal purpose of the meeting.

In summarizing his report, Commissioner Strange posed the following questions:

  • Are our ordinances resulting in the desired outcomes?
  • Do we even know all of the rental properties in the city and are there ongoing inspections for health safety and welfare?
  • Do we need to examine options including enforcement of existing codes, minor tweaks in codes, building code changes, resolution of inconsistencies in the code, and restatement of policies?
  • And finally, he asked: what are the breaking points where we need to act?

Planning Commissioners also added the following points which have been raised by citizens: the added demand on water capacity and issues related to the draining of pools, smells from chlorine and pool water, and the addition of fences in yards with swimming pools.

Several City Commissioners stated that the issues were well defined in the citizens’ letters, and that the City is listening carefully to the issues raised. Mayor Cooper announced that the City has retained the professional services of City Planner Kyle Gulbronson of URS Corporation to assist the city in developing solutions.

The Mayor then opened the meeting to public comment.

In addition to further identification of issues, suggestions from citizens included tightening noise ordinances, increased parking requirements to accommodate to the increased number of occupants in rental properties, reexamination of setbacks, and increased rental inspections and inspections of pools. Some citizens suggested a moratorium on swimming pools. Although much of the discussion concerned swimming pools, some suggested the problem arises from rental homes with pools, not owner-occupied homes.

It was also requested that the City set a timeframe in which to treat these issues, and that action begin soon to prevent further deterioration of the character of the City.

After more than 90 minutes of public comment, in which every citizen wishing to speak was heard, the Mayor stated that issues of development, land use and respect for neighbors are not new issues for Rehoboth Beach, but arise from time to time as the circumstances and economics change in the city. He commented that balance of all rights and interests will be necessary in any solutions.

As a first action, the Mayor stated that, based on input from the public in today’s meeting, he will propose a moratorium at the September 19 regular Commission meeting to limit permitting and construction of swimming pools in residential zones. Such a moratorium would allow the Commissioners sufficient time to continue consideration of the issues and to develop appropriate solutions to the threat of the changing character of Rehoboth Beach. This was met with widespread support from the audience.

The Mayor announced that Commissioners will take up these issues as a committee of the whole, encouraging public comment at meetings and by letters to the Mayor and Commissioners and that the City intends to move judiciously but quickly to find appropriate solutions before the next Summer season.

Several citizens complimented the Mayor and Commissioners for listening to their concerns, and for taking action to protect the essential and important character of the City. It was widely felt that the meeting had been a productive one and had posed important questions for the Mayor and Commissioners to consider.

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