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Lewes, Delaware
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August 8, 2003     Cape Gazette
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August 8, 2003

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8 - C TTE, Friday, Aug. 8- Aug. 14, 2003 questing the city to delay the ren- ovations until the actual cost of burying the utilities could be as- certained and reconsidered. Howard Seymour had preempted Continued from page 7 the discussion by a motion that the board recommend to the city Lewes: get answers improvements. After an hour of on burying utilities discussion with citizens and board Last night, Aug. 6, at City Hall members and after a head count in Lewes at a Board of Public of Chestnut Street residents who works meeting, something hap- voted 13 to 1 to delay the project, pened which I cannot explain, the board voted. Howard Sey- The meeting was called so that the mour and John Woodyard ap- board could respond to problems proved the motion and I (Jim with the recently approved deci- Connaughton) and Wendell A1- sion to bury the utility lines when fred voted against. Gary Stabley, major renovations were done on the president of the board who the streets of Lewes. A recom- cast the previous tie-breaking mendation from the board was vote approving the improvement, needed by city council before then cast the deciding vote ap- Monday Aug. 11 - the council proving the motion that recom- meeting date. There is a planned mends to the city that the previous schedule and the streets have been approved plan be denied. designated. The problem is that Why not listen to the citizens the first street to be renovated is to and delay the project until we all be Chestnut Street and the bids for know the answers? I thought lis- construction have already come in tening and protecting the citizens to the city. The burying of the was the reason for the Lewes utility lines was not part of the Board of Public Works' existence. original renovation plan and I hope the city council and Mayor therefore the exact cost for the pay better attention on Monday city electric work and Verizon de- than three members of the board sign and actual work are not did last night. known. The city engineer Charlie Jim Connaughton O'Donnell had originally thought Lewes that the city and board would be able to quickly get the design Rchoboth should control completed and the plan could be implemented with the construe- tOwllhouse density tion that is to begin in September. The Rchoboth Beach Board of Because of a possible Verizon Commissioners needs to take ira- strike and complications with mediate action to control the den- casements for utility transformers sity of townhouses in the city to this has not happened. His rexm- ensure that a current problem is mendation is now that if the work not repeated. Developers of multi- is to begin in September it will not unit townhouses should not be be possible to include the utility permitted to increase the density improvements, of a development by including the The electric committee of the area of private streets or roads in board recommended that if we are the square foot area used to deter- to complete the work on schedule mine the number of townhouses the utility improvement be elimi- allowed in the development. nated. The board met to discuss Recently, I have become aware this recommendation. Many citi- that the city had just approved a zens including 14 homeowners on building permit that did allow the Chestnut Street were present, square foot area of a private street They had with them a letter re- to be included in such a determi- Barefootin' Continued from page 7 Delaware's maritime history. In a section on Life Saving Sta- tions, Meehan providesa-typical Wreck Report filed by the U.S. Life Saving Service - in this case for a ship blown aground by a northeast gale on Sept. 10, 1889. "My, But The Wind Did Blow" provides personal profiles of men whose lives are defined by the work they did on the sea: men like Capt. Jim Maloney with the Pilots Association of Bay and River Delaware, Capt. Harry Frazer of the U.S. Coast Guard, Milton Cooper of the U.S. Lifesaving Service - predecessor to the Coast Guard, and John Marsh, a main- stay of the Coast Guard at Indian River Inlet and later a mobile home park owner at the inlet and elsewhere in the Rehoboth area. Meehan divided his book into two parts: The Perils of the Sea and The Defense System. The first part gives comprehensive views through specific sections on storms, shipwrecks and invaders such as U-Boats and Prohibition- era rumrunners. The Defense System section offers chapters on lighthouses, lifesaving stations, pilots, Coast Guard and environ- mental control, The appendix, in addition to other material previ- ously mentioned, includes several interesting pages of significant names and places - Coin Beach, Harbor of Refuge, Breeches Buoy, menhaden, Faithful Steward, Lyle Gun just to mention a few - in al- phabeticai order and two pages on the collapse of the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse in April of 1926. _ Available at all the local book- stores for $35, "My, But The Wind Did Blow" is a valuable ad- dition to the impressive list of Delaware books and a valuable re- source for those who want to get the most out of life here along the edge. nation, and therefore gave permis- sion to build more units than would otherwise be allowed. I im- mediately contacted the city's planning commission to express my concern. While the city's building inspector, not the plan- ning commission, approved this building permit, the planning commission is the body charged with land use planning and its ac- tions are directly affected by the building inspector's decision. I am pleased to report that the plan- ning commission voted at a spe- cial meeting Aug. 2 to formally appeal this decision of the build- ing inspector. However, of greater importance is the need for the board of commissioners to take immediate action to ensure that neither developers nor the build- ing inspector can claim there is any confusion in how to interpret the city code regarding private streets or roads in multi-unit hous- ing developments. There is a language in the city code that suggests the square footage of such private streets or roads should be subtracted from the overall land area when making such calculations. In addition, there is case load from neighbor- ing states that addresses that issue and comes to similar conclusions. More and more townhouses and condominiums will be built in the city as time goes on. The city is becoming increasingly more dense. Quality-of-life issues, such as safety, light, air and health are at stake. It is very important that the city determine now whether or not such private streets or roads must be accounted for in deter- mining the floor-to-area ratio of proposed buildings. Timothy C. Spies Rehoboth Beach Rehoboth townhouse issue a grave concern Rehoboth Beach is my home by choice. I have no regrets, but I do have grave concerns. Our city has been under tremendous develop- ment pressures both outside our boundaries and increasingly, with- in our city limits. We are now faced with needed decisions re- garding subdivision and resulting infill. Every land-use decision must be based on the cumulative impact to the immediate neighbor- hood and the surrounding com- munity. We no longer have the luxury of looking at proposed de- velopments on a site-by-site basis. This is why the pending Compre- hensive Development Plan is so important to all of us. In this regard, a very recent is- sue has arisen that provides the board of commissioners the op- portunity to demonstrate to the community that they are as con- cerned about the mushrooming high-density townhouse develop- ments within the city and the re- suiting threat to public safety and welfare as many citizens have ex- pressed. Because of the recent resigna- tion of the building inspector, the city's acting building inspector is- sued a building permit for a town- house development based on an interpretation of the city's zoning ordinance that needs careful re- consideration. The acting building inspector included the area of an approximately 220-foot long pri- vate street in the calculations for the number of townhouses permit- ted. However, under the definition section of the code (pg. 27009) for street line specifically states the required width of a "private street." Therefore, it would seem that use of same for allowed square footage for permitted units must be reevaluated. Although this specific case was a small townhouse development on the recently cleared land be- tween Rehoboth Avenue and Sixth Street, previously known as Joseph's Cottages, it has signifi- cant importance. It is a precedent that can now be used by other ap- plicants. In fact, the city's plan- ning commission has an applica- tion for a major subdivision before them and the applicant for this subdivision cited this use of the private street for calculating the number of units allowed on the Joseph's Cottages property as rea- son that its proposed private drive, which would connect the two pub- lic streets, should be allowed in the calculation of the number of hous- ing units permitted. Prompted by the assertion of precedent by the major subdivi- sion applicant, the planning com- mission examined both the cited project approved by the acting building inspector and the city code regarding private streets and concluded that the area of private streets should not have been in- cluded. Should such private streets be allowed in a large devel- opment, a significant increase in the density of housing units would occur. Realizing the importance of this issue and its potential impact on future decisions of the plan- ning commission and future de- velopment of Rehoboth, the plan- ning commission determined that it should formally appeal the deci- sion of the acting building inspec- tor in issuing the building permit for the townhouse development planned for the former Joseph's Cottages parcel of land. At this time, such an appeal to the Reboboth Beach Board of Ad- justment is the only course of ac- tion available to the planning commission and I am grateful for this responsible action. However, what would be more helpful and needed is immediate action by the board of commissioners. The commissioners must promptly take whatever action is necessary to ensure that there is no possible ambiguity in the interpretation of the city code and that the acting building inspector and applicants understand that private streets cannot be used for square footage calculations. If necessary, a date- specific short-term abeyance on the issuance of new building per- mits for townhouses and other multihousing projects should be implemented while the city code is clarified. Action is needed now and by addressing the issue in a forthright manner, it resolves the need for an appeal. Along with so many neighbors, I continue to hope we can preserve the best. Mable Granke Rehoboth Beach Rehoboth: density issue should be treated urgent At the special meeting of the Rehoboth Beach Planning Com- mission held Aug. 2, I was pleased to learn that the city commission- ers have scheduled a working ses- sion next week on the subject of development density. I commend the city commissioners for doing so and urge them to treat these is- sues as urgent rather than business as usual. The meeting of the planning commission clearly had a sense of urgency and concern regarding the development of the Joseph's Cottages site at what appears to be the highest possible level of town- house density for the site, one side fronting on Rehoboth Avenue. Close behind will follow similar proposals for residential develop- ment of commercial sites, perhaps the Oak Grove Motel, the Bay Mart Center, and others. Develop- ers for all of these sites could ap- pear to take advantage of various problems in archaic and inconsis- tently enforced city code, essen- tially allowing the residential de- velopment of commercial proper- ty without adequate standards to control density, setback or any of the elements which apply to resi- dential areas. The result will be the most intensive and aggressive development possible of the few remaining significant parcels in the city of Rehoboth Beach. The planning commission took a bold action to challenge the building permit for the Joseph's Cottages site. While one or two members differed with the legal procedure, not one expressed any- thing but the most serious concern about the density and aggressive- ness of the potential development and the failure, or inability, of the city to deal with it effectively. I am convinced that members of the board of city commissioners will be judged increasingly by their ability and willingness to deal effectively and promptly with development in the city, which lit- erally changes the way Rehoboth feels and works - the quality of life here. I believe this is why the current election has drawn a seri- ous and knowledgeable chal- lenger in Henry DeWitt. As pro- posals like Joseph's Cottages or Bay Mart go forward, citizens are going to expect the city commis- sioners to be truly proactive and bold, setting standards and mak- ing decisions in the interest of the broad community, not just the de- veloper seeking to maximize rev- enues. I wish the city commis- sioners the best in their working session on density and urge them to invite the planning commis- sioners to participate in their dis- cussions and to fully consider their recommendations. Guy R. Martin Rehoboth Beach l'r'mll-r!y-- -'7 "T WIfflrreWllmllltt It