As building heights threatened to rise skyward in Rehoboth, a homeowners group rose to the occasion

By Lynn R. Parks | Photograph by Rob Waters
From the July 2019 issue

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At its April meeting, the Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission had as its first order of business a review of preliminary plans for a new hotel, proposed for the south corner of Rehoboth Avenue and the boardwalk. The hotel, dubbed by its developers as the Belhaven, would span the entire block and have about 100 rooms, a restaurant, a pool and a bar.

 During his presentation before the commission, architect Peter Fillat III said the building’s eave line would sit exactly 42 feet above street level. That is the height limit for commercial buildings in the city, according to its zoning code.

 

Fillat went on to explain, though, that the highest point of the roof would be 45 feet above the street, to allow space for air conditioning equipment. And the very tippy-top of the building, the uppermost point of several decorative finials, would be almost 10 feet higher, 54 feet 11 inches above street level.

Commissioner Joyce Lussier reminded Fillat that city code permits “embellishments” — special decorations like the finials — to be just 50 feet above street level. Allowing them to be constructed as designed would require that the city grant a special exception. And Commissioner Francis “Bunky” Markert asked the architect about the additional afternoon and early evening shade the building would cast on the beach if it is allowed to be higher than city code allows. “I’m not worried about the finials,” Markert said. “But how much shade do you create as a result of being 3 feet higher?”

 

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