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Dewey Beach board of commissioners finally approve controversial zoning changes

Delaware Public Media

The Dewey Beach Board of Commissioners finally voted on a highly controversial zoning bill over 2 years in the making.


Town Commissioners debated changes to the zoning regulations for over an hour before narrowly approving them.


The vote came after months-long talks since the recommendations came from the Planning and Zoning Commision.


Commissioners continued to disagree on the maximum number of stories for buildings and the minimum setback for side yards on corner lots in the town’s Northern district, specifically the "NR" district.


Back in January, commissioners had reached a general consensus on changes to the code, reflected in their proposal, but Commissioner Gary Persinger brought back debate on the setbacks and the maximum number of stories.


Commissioner William Stevens says the board already had consensus on increasing the floor limit to three stories.


“The conversations around this have been long and we should be smart enough to figure this out," Stevens said. "And I can tell you that going less than three stories — it’s a bait and switch and I will not support it.”


Persinger also rebutted some residents’ claim that keeping the floor limit at two and a half stories infringed on their rights. Persinger noted the limit is already two and a half stories, so people should have expected that.


Mayor Dale Cooke says homeowners claiming that infringes on their rights are wrong.


“Two and a half stories is existing code," Cooke said. "I don’t think there’s any, someone can say that we’re hurting or taking away the rights of present homeowners by staying with two and a half stories.”


The commissioners who voted against the changes were split on their reasoning, Paul Bauer saying the changes go too far and Stevens arguing they go against the general consensus reached at the previous meeting.


The final vote was 3-2 to accept the zoning changes, including the two and a half floor limit and reducing the required setback to 12 feet. Consensus was already reached on all the other changes to the code.


Roman Battaglia a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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