Coalition Forms in Support of Rehoboth Beach Referendum - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Coalition Forms in Support of Rehoboth Beach Referendum

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Downtown Rehoboth Beach (Photo: WBOC) Downtown Rehoboth Beach (Photo: WBOC)

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - A new coalition called the "Rehoboth Neighbors United" has formed in in order to urge voters to support a controversial zoning ordinance in a November referendum. 

The debate all began in July, when the Rehoboth Beach Commissioners passed an ordinance, that essentially limited the size allowed for future homes. The commissioners took up the issue, after neighbors, many of whom are members of the new coalition, complained of large homes that were hurting the "character of the city." 

In response to the July decision, a separate group of neighbors started a petition, calling for a referendum, so that the public could decide. Initially, the city said that the petition was short by 11 signatures, but after some door-knocking, the group was able to gather the necessary amount of signatures. On Friday, the city commissioners decided a referendum would be held on Nov. 7.

"This is a turning point," said Susan Gay, one of the leaders of the coalition. 

Gay said that the future of the city would hang on this election. 

"My main fear is environmental, frankly," she said. "I mean, the loss of green space - the loss of trees. We're taking away everything that Rehoboth has been known for for decades. The reason I'm here is because it's not like other beach towns. It's not like Ocean City, New Jersey or Ocean City, Maryland. That's why people come here. And not just me, not just residents, but it's why visitors come here too." 

The ordinance, which passed by a vote of six to one, increased the amount of natural or unbuilt areas from 40 percent to 50 percent of the total lot size. It also increased the size of front yard and backyard setback limits. 

The ordinance also tackled the issue of "Floor-to-Area Ratio," requiring new houses with pools to adhere to a lower ratio. Lastly the ordinance limited the size of houses in the main residential district to 4,500-square-feet.

Eugene Lawson, a well-known Rehoboth Beach attorney, who led the petition effort, said that this ordinance was harmful to the property rights of people in Rehoboth Beach. 

"If somebody is spending a million and half bucks for a lot," he said, "You would think they'd be able to build the house they want to build. But to spend that much money, and then be told you can't build a house with a pool - you can't build a house of a certain size - I just think that's something that isn't beneficial to the city." 

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