The ongoing fight over zoning and other issues in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware has sparked the formation of a new group called One Rehoboth - Moving Forward Together. It is a coalition of Rehoboth Beach neighbors who share concerns about the future of their town. They all have homes at the beach and are joining together because they believe in their heart and soul the beach town they love must continue to be a place people from around the world will want to visit, vacation and live.
The catalyst for forming the group is the recently adopted zoning ordinance, which they oppose, that will be put to a vote in a Special Election on the 7th of November. The group opposes the zoning ordinance but they are also concerned with a host of issues impacting how the town will manage growth so it benefits all who passionately care about the town's future.
The group is committed to fostering consensus on issues impacting so many in the town and wants to work to create a more harmonious community. The recent fights over noise, swimming pools and property rights have led to a raft of bad publicity for the town. By promoting greater transparency of the Rehoboth Beach government and encouraging greater citizen participation in the governing process they believe everyone will benefit.
There are many reasons to vote against the referred zoning ordinance. One of the biggest was cited by Terri Sullivan, former building inspector in the Cape Gazette stating, "The proposed ordinance will make every residential property in the city nonconforming". At the time the ordinance was passed, many Commissioners commented it needed more work. Commissioner Patrick Gossett, who was just reelected, and was in favor of the zoning change, said he "was comfortable moving forward with discussion points dependent upon the Commissioners and staff looking at whether or not there are unintended consequences and, if there are, they need to react to them immediately and make changes." Two months later no changes have been proposed and there is no indication from the Commission that any changes will be proposed.
It makes sense to listen to homeowners who want more rational and reasonable zoning. To do this the community needs to be involved in the process of developing that zoning. By voting AGAINST THE REFERRED ORDINANCE the community will say they support the creation of a task group to include individuals with experience that would enable them to provide expert advice and counsel to address the complex issues facing the town allowing them to create reasonable zoning proposals where appropriate.
There are many issues beyond the current zoning fight that need to be addressed. A major one is who has the right to vote in Rehoboth Beach elections. Currently many impediments exist to absentee voting. Many people who own second homes in Rehoboth and are entitled to vote, have found the town has made it very hard for them to do so if they can't be there in person. Many have bought their home with the intention of retiring in Rehoboth. They are very committed to seeing the town maintain all the charm and amenities which caused them to choose it for their planned retirement in the first place.
No one debates there have been changes over the years as Rehoboth Beach has gained a well-earned reputation for being a great place to live and retire. Rehoboth has a vibrant business community and a large number of four-star restaurants. It has a beautiful beach and one mile boardwalk which makes it one of the premier beach resorts in the nation as well as a place to live fulltime. Over the years citizens have worked hard to limit building heights and keep the charm of Rehoboth intact.
No matter how much people don't want change, and many who have been here for generations don't want any, change does come and there is a need to manage it. Some believe mistakes were made which allowed the building of the larger homes some are now fighting.
But you can't spend years welcoming new people and seeing your home and land values go up and then tell those who built under existing zoning regulations you are now going to retroactively change the playing field for them. That is what some on the town Commission tried to do which riled the citizens. The fights last summer over ordinances which the Commission tried to pass on swimming pools and noise hurt the reputation of the town and will take years to repair. The town became a laughing stock on the national news by trying to stop renters from using swimming pools in the homes they rent and neighbors complaining about the noise children made when using a pool. The noise ordinance was written in a way that pitted neighbor against neighbor and made it hard for families to come to visit and enjoy a vacation at the beach.
So as a longtime resident of Rehoboth Beach, though living just outside the town boundary and not being able to vote, I urge a vote AGAINST on this zoning ordinance and support One Rehoboth as it tries to bring together the town and bring a little more common sense to the process of managing the town and its growth.