Lot "Unmerging" Hotly Debated in Rehoboth Beach - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Lot "Unmerging" Hotly Debated in Rehoboth Beach

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REHOBOTH BEACH, De. - The process of making a one lot property into two lots, is creating some debate in Rehoboth Beach. The process of putting two individual lots into one is called "merging," and when a landowner then decides to split these into two plots of land instead, it is called "unmerging" or "subdividing." Now a recent decision by the building inspector's office, may take away the Planning Commission's oversight of the "unmerging" process. 

For decades, it's been a common practice in the city for the Planning Commission to grant the go ahead before these subdivisions could take place, but after a series of challenges to this, the Chief Building Inspector has made a decision to change this policy. 

Over the last six years, five different homes have tried to "unmerge" without permission from the Planning Commission, getting denied by the building inspector's office. Each time, the property owners appealed this decision to the Board of Adjustments, where the decision was over-ruled. After being challenged and over-ruled five times in a row, Chief Building Inspector Terri Sullivan has decided to allow these "unmergers" without permission from the Planning Commission. 

"As you are aware, merger of lots has been the subject of considerable debate for some time," she said in a memo. 

She continued later on in the memo with the following: 

"Having been reversed by the Board of Adjustment on numerous occasions, the Building and Licensing Department has revised its merger policy," she said. 

WBOC sat down with Sullivan Tuesday to discuss the reasoning for the memo. 

"The attorneys that are representing these clients disagreed with my interpretation," she said. "The Planning Commission is a body that sees things one way and apparently the Board of Adjustment sees it another way." 

And this discrepancy has left her office in the middle. While the Planning Commission's regulatory role in "merging" is clearly defined, when it comes to "unmerging," it's less clear who is responsible for oversight. Sullivan said the only solution to this discrepancy is for the commissioners to clarify it though a new ordinance.

In October, the Planning Commission submitted a report to the commissioners urging them to take action on this. On Monday, the commissioners held a workshop to discuss the issue. WBOC met with Commissioner Stan Mills at a property on Maryland Avenue that was most recently granted permission to subdivide without permission from the Planning Commission.

He said action needs to be done in order to decide which board's perspective would be the town's official opinion. He said many neighbors would be concerned about rampant subdividing if it's not done within city guidelines. 

"Pretty much everyone I know in Rehoboth Beach doesn't like change," he said. "So certainly subdividing and tearing down one house and putting up two is always perhaps frowned upon. But again the property owners have certain legal rights that we have to adhere to." 

With or without the Planning Commission's oversight, these mergers will have to adhere to specific regulations. To be subdivided, the lots must have a minimum area of at least 5,000 ft, it must have at least 50 ft. of frontage on the street, and it must be large enough to contain a rectangle of at least 4,000 square feet in area with it's shortest side measuring 48 feet.
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