Fenwick Committee Reviews Commercial Design Guidelines

FENWICK ISLAND – A resort committee reconvened this week after more than a year’s hiatus to review draft guidelines that will be used in the design of the town’s commercial district.

On Wednesday, members of the Fenwick Island Ad Hoc Commercial District Planning Committee met with The Design Group’s Jeff Schoellkopf to discuss the town’s next steps in the development of commercial design guidelines.

Councilman Richard Mais, committee chair, noted Wednesday’s committee meeting was the first to take place since the start of the pandemic.

“We were fine-tuning everything when we paused for the last year, and then we started again this spring,” he said.

In 2019, the committee began working with Schoellkopf to better define Fenwick’s vision for the commercial district as it is redeveloped.

Since then, committee members have focused their efforts on core issues such as building aesthetics, mechanical equipment, landscaping and parking, and have drafted voluntary guidelines and suggested ordinance changes that would suit the needs of commercial development while protecting residential property owners.

“The fundamental difference is what’s in the guidelines that are voluntary and what might be brought into the zoning code,” Schoellkopf said.

This week, members presented a summary of recommended ordinance changes and voluntary design elements for the committee’s review with the goal of gathering feedback and suggestions.

Proposed guidelines discussed this week include allowing decorative finishes such porches or bay windows to encroach into front and side setbacks, requiring mechanical equipment to be screened from view, and continuing to allow residential buildings in the commercial zone.

“There was some discussion about whether we wanted to continue to allow that and was there a danger of losing all of our commercial zone,” Mais said. “But I think we all agreed that the way we currently operate, where residential building is allowed in the commercial zone, would continue.”

Committee members this week also discussed signage, noise and compact parking, among other things. Mais said the goal was to present the draft guidelines to the town council at an upcoming meeting.

“This will be a recommendation to the town council,” he said. “It will go to them first.”

During public comments, Mayor Gene Langan said he wanted to see more visuals explaining the proposed design elements.

“One thing I think the council would like to see is if you have any preliminary sketches,” he said. “I’d like to see drawings.”

Resident Gail Warburton said she wanted more design guidelines to be added to the town’s zoning code.

“I’d like to see more of the items in the plan to be mandatory as opposed to being just encouraged,” she said. “Just saying they are encouraged isn’t going to get the job done.”

Mais noted the committee would submit the draft document to the town council in the coming weeks. He said the town will hold a public workshop on the proposed guidelines before taking any further action.

“We’re hoping to have a workshop where we can have some displays and some conversations,” he said. “It would be open to the public.”

A copy of the proposed design guidelines is available for viewing on the town’s website, fenwickisland.delaware.gov.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.