On January 26, 2018, the Rehoboth Beach Commissioners denied BeachWalk's appeal and upheld the Planning Commission decision that this development project must meet subdivision code.
On February 16, 2018 the developer filed an appeal with Delaware Superior Court. Stay tuned for updates. See news articles on our Media page, here.
What is the Issue?
Ocean Bay Mart LLC seeks a residential re-development of commercial property without adequate standards to control density, setbacks, and other elements that apply to residential neighborhoods throughout the City of Rehoboth Beach.
The old Bay Mart Shopping Center sits on 7.7 acres of land in the City, facing Route 1 on the Forgotten Mile. The developer claims that the proposed condominium is not subject to the City subdivision laws, even though the developer proposes to build 58 single-family houses and 5 multi-family townhouse units on the property. The site plan calls for only "drive aisle," not streets and has minimal open space. There will be no sidewalks and no on-street parking, yet the 58 two and three-story houses -- nearly 90% of them 5- and 6-bedroom, each with a bathroom -- accommodating only 2 to 3 cars in a small driveway or combination garage/driveway. Additionally, as proposed, each single family house does not sit on its own 5000 sq. ft. lot as is required in Rehoboth Beach.
The developer’s plan is an attempt at an end-run around the City’s zoning code. He hopes to avoid any restrictions that would normally apply to residential subdivisions and single-family houses in the City.
The remedy for an owner who wants to build single-family houses in a C-1 zone is simple – comply with the City code subdivision requirements, so that each house sits on its own lot to ensure adequate-sized streets, appropriate green space and storm water management, and setbacks for the health, safety and well-being of the community.
In January of 2017, the Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission agreed with t his point of view, informing the BeachWalk developer that he must reapply as a major subdivision. The developer rejected this position, refused to provide any additional information, and has since chosen to appeal the decision of the Rehoboth Beach City Commissioners. The appeal hearing is currently scheduled for January 26, 2018.
What’s at Stake?
BeachWalk threatens the health, safety and well-being of residents of the proposed community, as well as those in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Zoning regulations have been carefully created through a complex and public process over many years to assure quality of life, safety, economic stability, and protection of our environment, including our urban forest and natural lakes. We think the threats to safety, especially those outlined by Rehoboth Beach Fire Chief Chatham Marsch should be emphasized: narrow "drive aisles" instead of normal, residential streets that don't allow easy access for emergency equipment; density of “reach out and touch me” houses that permits easy jumping of fires from one house to another; and as important, moving the entrance from Rt. 1 to Terrace Road, an action that will impede firetruck access to the site by requiring shutting down all four lanes of Rt. 1 in order to access Terrace Road (because his trucks from Station 2 and will be required to make a U-turn at Robinsons Avenue in order to access Terrace Road).
The proposed development sets a negative precedent for future re-development in the City.
If Ocean Bay Mart LLC is allowed to continue with a plan that intentionally subverts the City’s zoning laws, what is to stop future developers from doing the same? Any group of parcels in the City could potentially be re-developed in the same way without adhering to safety and other zoning standards imposed on other residences. This plan must be altered and improved through the subdivision and Site Plan Review process.
The BeachWalk developer's plans seek to do an end-run around City ordinances/building codes.
This proposal is a subdivision in every way, yet the developer contends he is exempt from City standards that govern residential communities -- regulations which also apply to commercially zoned property used for residential purposes. The owner does not want to re-zone the property so that he can avoid being held to subdivision standards for residential neighborhoods, a loophole that should be quickly closed to avoid this situation in the future. The City's Planning Commission agreed with this point of view, requiring the developer to submit a major subdivision application, and in doing so, comply with the requirements that apply to every other citizen and developer of residential housing in the City.
The current plan is the antithesis of the City’s small town neighborhood feel with walkable streets, open spaces and a high quality of life.
Ocean Bay Mart presents a great opportunity to turn a neglected shopping center that has become a blight on the community into an attractive residential community or mixed-use development that serves as a phenomenal gateway to Rehoboth Beach from the South. The proposed plan fails to achieve this goal. What it does do is maximize profit to the owner, and only the owner, by selling off a greater number of houses.
BeachWalk threatens the quality of life if its future residents, those in the surrounding neighborhoods as well as in the community at large.
Traffic and parking are major areas of concern. The development has inadequate off-street and guest parking for its 63 homes, most of which are 5-6 bedroom/bathroom units. Given Rehoboth's current code, these units could legally have an occupancy as high as 612 people, yet analysis of the site plan for these homes shows dedicated parking for only 126 cars.
Lack of recreational and open space is another problem in the proposed development. Analysis of the site plan shows that open space within BeachWalk's home sites does not met the standard for natural area set by Rehoboth Beach city code. Were city regulations followed for natural space (50% gross lot area and 50% front yard setback) -- and were consideration given to the square footage required for streets and other facilities on property (e.g. clubhouse, pool) -- the number of houses that could legally be developed on the property would drop to below 30. The developer, ignoring city code standards, has proposed 63 units.
BeachWalk presents a threat to the City's infrastructure and imposes undue financial burden on city residents.
As but one example, while nearly 85% of BeachWalk homes are 5 and 6 bedroom/bath residences, the developer based his wastewater analysis on a model that assumed the residences would be comprised of four bedrooms. Additionally, the model completely ignored the commercial portion of the development, which is proposed to be a clubhouse with both bathroom and kitchen facilities.
Independent analysis of BeachWalk sewage demand indicates that the Newbold Square Pumping Station, the nearby utility that would serve BeachWalk, is most likely inadequate for the true demand of the proposed development, forcing the city to pay for expanding the capacity of the pumping station or to replace it.
The proposed BeachWalk development presents a hazard to Rehoboth's environment and natural resources and, in doing so, threatens the public's well-being.
Two major civic organizations in the city, Save our Lakes 3 (SOLA3) and Rehoboth Beach Homeowners' Association (RBHA), have both expressed concerns for the potential negative impact that the project would have on Rehoboth's natural environment and on the health safety, and welfare of the surrounding neighborhoods. In a letter to City Commissioners, they stated that "the plans submitted for BeachWalk provide minimum protections for stormwater management, sediment and erosion control, and surface and groundwater runoff. Moreover, the threat from and disposition of toxic airborne substances into the lake arising from the demolition of two large building structures, removal of 7.78 acres of asphalt and concrete, removal of current infrastructure, and practices before and during construction are inadequately addressed."
The BeachWalk developer has proposed an overcrowded and densely populated community that will become a blight to the surrounding neighborhood and to the entire City of Rehoboth Beach.
BeachWalk is more than twice as dense, in terms of number of dwellings per acre, as the surrounding neighborhood. Additionally, the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for the development (0.62) is almost three times that of the nearby community (0.22). Its front streetscapes are also approximately half the size and the backyard setbacks are less than 25% of the average of the neighborhood.
Over-crowding is also a concern. When BeachWalk is occupied at its maximum legal rental capacity (736 occupants), the development's population will be mroe than 50% of the current full-time population of the City -- yet this population will reside on a parcel that is 1.2% of the City's total land area.