With warm weather on the way, Rehoboth Beach's boardwalk and beach will be reopened--with strict guidelines--by this weekend under framework discussed by the Rehoboth Beach City Commission Tuesday.
Mayor Paul Kuhns' plans, discussed in a virtual meeting Tuesday, will open beaches and the boardwalk under strict social distancing guidelines for solo exercise, which is permitted under the governor's State of Emergency.
Rehoboth's beach and boardwalk will reopen on Friday, May 15 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m for those specific purposes.
"This is what a lot of people come to Rehoboth for--this is the main attraction," said Kuhns.
Governor John Carney said the decision is consistent with his State of Emergency.
'I think what Mayor Kuhns really did is move towards the existing limitations...they had gone further than that and completely closed their beaches and boardwalk, and we had allowed beaches to be open for walking, family walking, walking with your spouse, exercising on the beach in an individual kind of way, and my understanding is he's moving towards that."
Public Restrooms on Rehoboth, Baltimore, and Delaware Avenues will also reopen on May 15.
Parking meters and residential permits would remain off until at least May 29, the Friday after Memorial Day.
In addition, dog walking on the beach - usually banned in Rehoboth after May 1 - will be allowed through May 29, but are not permitted on the boardwalk.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi agrees with the plans.
"I'm happy the way we moved forward in terms of not jumping the gun and opening too fast, but I do think it's time to open the beach and the boardwalk, but I will say...Naples, Florida, they opened their beach, and they had to close it one week later. I think that the most important thing that we can do...the only way we can protect ourselves and the public is wearing masks and social distancing," she said.
Commissioner Richard Byrne also supported the plan.
"As soon as our city team can make this possible is a direction, I would support going," he said.
Commissioner Steve Scheffer, also supported the plan, but wants to see contingency plans in place.
"We also need to look at what we can do in the event that things don't go as planned, and I think it's really important that we work with our local representatives to make sure that we have adequate testing, that we are able to do what we can do to when we do have outbreaks, that we're able to trace contacts and able to provide treatment. My biggest concern that is more people come into town...we run the risk of overwhelming our medical facilities," said Scheffer.
Commissioner Susan Gay said some homeowners expressed concerns.
"[They want] to take things slowly in reopening, follow the CDC guidelines for businesses and restaurants, and yes, they're in favor of opening the boardwalk as soon as possible, but with a system of social distancing, potentially, even restrictive hours."
She said second homeowners have also expressed concerns.
"Some homeowners said they don't feel welcome there...that they don't even feel like they can come even if they're quarantining."
She said, they also want to see beach access limited with permits or beach tags.
Commissioner Joseph Chrzanowski echoed support for that idea--which would be a first on Delmarva. Jersey Shore towns have used beach tags for decades.
"We should do beach tags or passes this year, no question," he said.
Kuhns said any beach tag plan could be complicated to enforce, especially if it would be legally considered a tax.
"There are six other beach communities [so] this is not something that can be done in a vacuum or done that quickly. It might require a charter charge. Legislatively, it might be difficult, it might not be as easy as it sounds."
Chrzanowski responded that they could make it a free tag, but the commissioners chose to table further discussion until Friday's next scheduled meeting.
Other suggestions considered by the commissioners included making the boardwalk directional, although Police Chief Keith Banks said that would be difficult to put into place by Friday, especially if someone walking north wanted to stop at a business between streets.
Kuhns also cited concerns about how Rehoboth would enforce Delaware's 14-day mandatory quarantine for out-of-state residents.
"Unless we were to put up barricades of the edge of town, it's not something we would be able to accomplish. As much as possible, we're going to have to people the benefit of the doubt that they're trying to do the right thing."
He also mentioned on-going discussions with Governor Carney on the short-term rental situation, saying Carney was still shifting them to the end of May when Phase 1 of Delaware's reopening plan is slated to begin.
Rehoboth's decision means all beach communities in Delaware except for Bethany Beach have reverted back to Governor Carney's State of Emergency on exercise.
Bethany Beach posted an agenda for an emergency council meeting on Friday that includes a discussion on their beach restrictions.