DBE files another suit against Dewey Beach

by Michael Short on September 21, 2010

By Michael Short

The other shoe fell on Monday.

Dewey Beach Enterprises (DBE) filed another lawsuit against Dewey Beach on Monday, Sept. 20. The suit was filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery and seeks to overturn the action of the Dewey Beach Commissioners at the town meeting on Saturday, Sept. 11.

The commissioners by a 3 to 2 vote approved a clarifying ordinance concerning the phrase “relaxed bulk standards.”  Those standards apply only to parcels of 80,000 square feet or more.

DBE alleges that the ordinance tries to retroactively change the definition of relaxed bulk standards in the town’s 2007 comprehensive plan. It seeks to have the ordinance overturned and is the sixth suit filed in the ongoing legal battle over the redevelopment of Ruddertowne.

“All we have ever asked of the town is to follow the law and recognize our legally protected grandfathered status,” said Jim Baeurle of DBE. “Instead, commissioners aligned with Citizens to Preserve Dewey (CPD), a special interest group, not only blatantly violate the law, they ignore sound direction from the Governor’s Office of State Planning.”

“This ordinance is plainly designed to further deny and frustrate DBE’s  grandfathered mixed use redevelopment project at Ruddertowne,” according to a statement from DBE.

The ordinance passed on Sept. 11 said height increases beyond 35 feet are not allowed.  Whether the project could exceed the town’s 35-foot height limit may be the single biggest sticking point in the battles.

The ordinance also said that relaxed bulk standards do not  apply to all restrictions. “It is not, and has never been, the intention of the commissioners to require relaxation of every bulk standard in the RB-1 district for parcels of 80,000 square feet or more, and the commissioners hereby clarify that only selected bulk standards, as determined by the commissioners, should be relaxed,” according to the ordinance.

“I believe it clarifies the intent of planning and zoning and the commissioners all along,” said Commissioner Marc Appelbaum at the Sept. 11 meeting.

The reference to the  State Planning Office is aimed at a conversation Commissioner Diane Hanson had with State Planning Director Connie Holland before the Sept. 11 meeting.

Hanson said that her conversation with Holland has been mischaracterized and that “nothing in this conversation concerned the legality of the clarifying ordinance.”

Filing of the latest suit comes less than a week from the Saturday, Sept. 25 Dewey Beach election. Three candidates will be seeking two seats in that race and the Ruddertowne re-development and ongoing legal battles have been a huge part of the campaign.

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