The city’s residential neighborhoods are being redeveloped at a rapid rate. The new construction is larger and covers more of the lot than what is being removed, so the city has been losing green space and trees. Many of the provisions of the old zoning code were not adequately protecting the character of our neighborhoods, or our green space and trees.
Neighborhoods are being transformed with the demolition of modest cottages to make way for houses that stretch the zoning code and our lots to their limits. In the past, houses were built “within” the zoning code; however now, nearly all houses are being built “to” the maximum limit of the code.
The new ordinance amends the Rehoboth Beach zoning code. It was carefully drafted following more than one year of citizen participation and input, including 18 public meetings, and in response to citizen requests to help preserve the character of our city.
All the changes listed below apply to R-1 and R-2 residential districts, except where otherwise noted.
INCREASE IN GREEN SPACE
Rehoboth Beach is unique for ocean resorts because of its many, many trees and other greenery. These zoning changes below will protect that feature.
- Increases natural area of lots to 50%, which expands the opportunity for more and healthier trees. It also ensures more rainfall is infiltrated into the ground, reducing runoff that carries environmental contaminants into our lakes and the ocean.
- Lot coverage by buildings and structures reduced to 40%. With the previous 50% lot coverage, a new house could be built almost completely to the side and rear setbacks. This coverage led to less light and air and dramatically increased storm water runoff, exacerbating draining issues in the city.
- Front yard setback must contain 50% natural area. This helps to ensure that properties contribute to the aesthetics of the streetscape and fit in with character of the neighborhood.
- Rear yard setback is increased from 10 to 15 feet. Additional space is needed to ensure light and air can reach all homes and yards, and lessen noise from one property to another.
FLOOR AREA RATIO (FAR)
Currently, FAR is totally proportional to lot area. The vast majority of lots in the city are 50 x 100 or 5000 square feet. There are, however, a number of larger lots. A house built to the maximum on a larger lot can overwhelm its neighbors; thus, the adjustments below are needed for scale and balance.
- There is no change in the FAR for homes built on 5,000 square foot lots (which is about 80% of all lots in the city).
- For houses built on lots larger than 5,000 square feet, the FAR is reduced to .30 for square footage in excess of 5,000.
- FAR is reduced to .50 if the property contains a swimming pool, because in-ground pools negatively impact existing and potential trees due to the deep excavation of the swimming pools.
MAXIMUM HOUSE SIZE
- In R-1 and R-2 districts, the maximum dwelling size is 4,500 square feet.
- In R-1(S) district, the maximum dwelling size is 6,000 square feet.
Accessory structures can now be built in the rear yard and one side yard to within 4 feet of the property line. The old code permitted an accessory structure to encroach one side yard of rear yard up to property line. The wall on the property line had to be masonry and the adjoining property owner had to give consent.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED IN THE ZONING ORDINANCE
- Does not change the requirements for parking on residential lots.
- Does not prohibit construction of porches; a bonus of 250 sq. ft. is still added to the FAR for front porches.
- Does not mandate construction of big boxes.
- Does not make every existing house nonconforming or prevent houses from being remodeled or expanded.
- Does not change the fact that a nonconforming house can be replaced in-kind if damaged by fire or a natural disaster.