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January 17, 1997     Cape Gazette
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January 17, 1997
 

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14 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, January 17 - January 23, 1997 Preserving character hot Rehoboth topic; Planners seek site plan review By Trish Vernon permits without benefit of a public to the floor for Consideration, de- comes to dealing with stricter or- bulk, landscaping, neighborhood Since Rehoboth Beach Histori- cal Society President Elizabeth Hooper first blew the whistle op the proliferating number of old buildings being demolished (Cape Gazette, Dec. 13-19, 1996), it has been a major topic of discussion within the city. The Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission broached the subject at its Dec. 9 meeting, followed by Rehoboth Beach Main Street on Jan. 8 and the Rehoboth Beach Board of Commissioners Jan. 10. The Planners revisited the prob- lem and possible solutions at its most recent meeting on Jan. 13, with Chairman Mary Campbell informing fellow Planners that "We didn't get very far with our request to ask for a stay on demo- litions. The board thinks it's too inflammatqry." The main focus of the proposal is 23 Baltimore Avenue, for which a demolition permit has been is- sued. Once home of Silk and Sands Florists, the building has been purchased by Twin Lizzies, Inc. of Wilmington, which plans to operate a Pizzas by Elizabeth. Hooper, who presumes the build- ing to be well over 100 years old, said she was ableto contact one of the new owners, and was in- formed that they don't plan to tear down the building until the fall. However, it is just the latest of five downtown buildings to be earmarked, with the Strand and Mac Hall McCabe already gone. Planners seek moratorium In a letter to the commissioners dated Jan. 6, Campbell reiterated "the urgency we feel with regard to the accelerated loss of old and historic buildings in Rehoboth. Left unattended, the situation will only be exacerbated until at some time in the near future, our town will have become just another beach town without charm or originality." The Planners cited that the Long Range Plan adopted last year calls for cataloging and preserving his- toric structures and that a draft of an Historic Preservation Ordi- nance was shelved while the plan was being hammered out. The Planners feel that particular ordi- nance is in the commissioners' court, as they had asked the board to have it reworked. They asked the hoard to review the historic structure survey and adopt it as the official historic at- las of the city, with structures placed in the atlas immune from demolition until a Historic Re- view and Preservation Commis- sion (which reports to the Plan- ners) is established to review each demolition request. Such a com- mission would have the power to seek Historic Trust designation for significant structures and strive to establish historic districts where appropriate. While this is being accom- plished, the Planners asked at the Feb. 10 meeting for an emergency resolution which would put a moratorium on any demolition hearing. " Main Street: incentives Main Street President Kathy Kramedas was asked by the board what her organization's stand is on the matter. She told them that Main Street "encourages pressure to keep existing ,buildings unless deemed unsafe," with the thought of setting up incentives rather than impinging on property owner rights by legislating what they must or must not do. Main Street's board, she noted, is op- posed to any moratorium on de- molitions. Commissioner Betty Ann Kane reminded them that tax incentives only work when taxes are high, a situation foreign to Rehoboth Beach. Other incentives, Mayor Sam Cooper said later, could in- clude amending the building code or giving the owners of old build- ings a waiver of some of its very stringent restrictions. Mable Granke, Planner, re- minded the board that it is charged with preserving the city's beauty and the general health and welfare of its citizens. But Commissioner Jack Hyde replied that he feels it's "an iwful stretch to say we're tearing down a 75-year-old build- ing to protect health and welfare. You're flirting with the taking of property," which could find the city defending itself in court. Commissioner Richard Sargent agreed, adding "you can talk to your hem's content about not lik- ing something," but what in the city code is there to stop it? He couldn't see the need for a mora- torium, when 23 Baltimore seems to be the only one on the chopping block and isn't slated to be torn down until after this summer. Be- sides, demolition is banned alto- gether from May 15 to Sept. 15. However, Commissioner Jan Konesey threw her full support to- ward adoption of the Historic Preservation Ordinance. "I would be devastated if any homes on my street were torn down," she said, noting-property values are en- hanced by preservation. If a build- ing must be torn down, the re- placement "should be reflective of the style of the surrounding streetscape." Cooper feels that such an ordi- nance falls disproportionately on those with structures deemed "his- toric", as they would be saddled with the expense of maintaining it according to the guidelines, while the people next door, with a rela- tively new building can do as they please. What Konesey wants, he said, is an architectural review or- dinance, which was considered but never adopted a decade ago. Wit h Hyde noting he sensed not all members of the Planners are behind the Historic Preservation Ordinance, Campbell replied that they felt there was too much ver- biage and that it was too mandato- ry and restrictive, but hoped the board would have its authors re- visit'it. Konesey said she would like to have it refined and brought fending the need for a moratorium in the meantime. City Manager Greg Ferrese sug- gested that they ask Robin Bodo from the state preservation office to return to Rehoboth Beach and meet with ,members of the Plan- ners, Main Street and the Histori- cal Society on the matter. The Planners were to do just that yes- terday (Jan. I6) afternoon for ini- tial discussion of where to go with the Historic Preservation Ordi- nance. With Bodo's help, "per- haps we could take it and rework it the same way we did with the Long Range PIQn," Campbell ad- vised at the Jan. 13 meeting. However, it was Planner Bob Scala's observation that the city would be more amenable to an or- di'nance which would preserve neighborhood tone rather than take it from a historic perspective. He termed the ordinance "too strict" and resulting in "economic inequities." Battle will be lost Planner Ed Cerulto then noted that everyone "wrings their hands about the problem, but when it t Michelle Soignm Salon, we'll help you reveel your bestl You'll be greeted by a staff of licensed professionals working with state of the art equipment under the supervision of a board certified dermatologist. Safe, sterile...simply the best care availablel All implements are steam sterilized for your protection. dinances, everyone backs away. Pretty soon the battle will be lost - no action is support for what's happening and I'm not sure a pot- pourri of incentives will be enough," calling for the need for outside help. Campbell called for the need to have the Planners rein- stated with authority over site plan reviews, as it had in the early 1980s, a responsibility now in the hands of the building inspector. They would make recommenda- tions on any project over a certain size. (They were given the au- thority at a time when they felt the building inspector of that era wasn't following city code prop- erly.) But Cerullo replied that a committee can't be put in the po- sition of being arbitrary reviewers of taste. "I'm also frustrated with the fear from lawsuits by the de- velopers. We need an articulated standards first." Campbell told Cerullo she'd be glad to work up some standards with the help of fellow planners along with requesting the rein- statement of their site plan review authority. Granke cited height, orientation and historic interest as areas in which standards could be imposed. "But all you can do is enforce the code as it stands, which allows for very little discretion," Cerullo told her. "A site plan review won't address the destruction." Scala asked, "Give me one stan- dard you can hold up which would prevent demolition. Can you gen- erate site plan review ordinance standards we can review?" Granke told him that she would. Cooper noted that as evidenced by the Jan. 13 meeting, the Plan- ners are not unanimous in what they are trying to achieve. "What they want in the end is architectur- al review - how a building fits into the character of the neighborhood. I think we are hard pressed to find truly historic structures in Re- hoboth Beach. The other problem is that the land itself is the much largerpercentage of the value of a property - people buy for the loca- tion and the building itself is often a liability rather than an enhance- ment, so it makes it all the more difficult.'-' lOW yourself to be beautiful. He have the latest in *VqT.EJ_?/R/NI."J,E_t rest ment ! 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