Bethany discusses character

The Bethany Beach Planning Commission met with area developers and architects Wednesday, Aug. 3, to discuss the options for enforcing design guidelines that would help maintain the character of the town.

Developers were asked to offer their opinions on specific architectural features and suggest ways to put together these desirable or undesirable elements into objective requirements.

Those in attendance spoke out against the creation of an Architectural Review Board citing it’s vulnerability to subjectivity and construction delays.

“Going through an Architectural Review Board would certainly slow down the process,” said Mark Hardt, one of the developers at the meeting.

About 70 percent of residents who responded to a questionnaire handed out this year were in favor of the board, which would operate in an advisory only capacity to provide guidance on acceptable design elements.

Instead, developers encouraged the establishment of set criteria they could follow prior to designing a structure in order to save time and effort.

The commission also asked for advice on whether to make the guidelines voluntary or mandatory, and if voluntary, how the town would ensure they were followed.

Developers and commission members differed on the option of creating a series of incentives should the guidelines be voluntary. Some rejected the idea and said the tradeoffs “could get out of hand” while those in favor desired more freedom in their designs.

Commission Chairman Philip Boesch stressed that the guidelines should essentially focus on maximizing “curb appeal” through explicit but simplistic requirements.

After discussing which designs posed the largest threat to diminishing this appeal, the commission was able to narrow their focus down to three basic stylistic elements: the height of a roof pitch, the placement of front steps and the possibility of enclosing the undersides of homes.

Commission Member Kathleen Mink asked developers to review the design features they look at daily and report back with suggestions on which should be encouraged or discouraged in an objective manner.

Mink noted that the commission must take into consideration the opinions of all involved parties, however, before establishing any concrete plans.

“What we want to do is gather all the perspectives of all the stakeholders so we can really move ahead,” Mink said. “We don’t want to stop change, we want to manage change.”

Developers proposed creating a committee comprised of both professionals and residents in order to gather and organize suggested stylistic elements that could be formulated into the guidelines.