Rehoboth Beach Postcard Image

RG #7180


Rehoboth Beach
RG 9015-028-000-05394: Rehoboth Ave, Rehoboth Beach

1873 – 1899

Rehoboth Beach was initially a religious seaside resort. In 1873, Reverend Robert Todd, a Methodist minister from Wilmington purchased over 400 acres along the Atlantic coast of Delaware just north of the Rehoboth Bay and incorporated a religious society called the “Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church.” The purpose of the Association was to “provide and maintain a permanent camp meeting ground and Christian sea-side resort, where everything inconsistent with Christian morality, as taught by the . . . [Methodist] church shall be excluded and prohibited.” A thirty-member Board of Directors was to oversee the sale of stock in the corporation which consisted of three hundred shares to be sold at fifty dollars each. No mention was made in the Charter regarding the sale of the lots. The Directors were also empowered to levy a tax on all real estate within the corporate limits in order to provide water and lighting as well make any other improvements deemed necessary.1 Within five years, a law was enacted which indicated that the owners of lots within the camp meeting had not paid the taxes as provided for in the 1873 Act. The Directors were now given powers similar to the collectors of County taxes and were also provided with the power to borrow up to $30,000 to further improve the real estate, as well as the power to require that lot owners to establish curbs and sidewalks along the street fronts. The law approved a change in the governance of the corporation by providing that one-third of the Directors could now be non-Methodists.2 In 1879, the corporate name of the Association was changed to the “Rehoboth Beach Association,” although adherence to the tenets of the Methodist church was still included in the statement of purpose.3 In 1881, all reference to the Methodist Church was eliminated from the Charter’s statement of purpose which was revised to indicate that “the sale of intoxicating liquor and everything inconsistent with Christian morality” was to be prohibited. The number of Directors was halved, and all lot holders were granted voting rights in the corporation.4 Ten years after its incorporation, the Treasurer of the Association, rather than the Board of Directors, was given the responsibility to collect taxes, and any sale of real estate had certain legal restrictions in place in order to claim clear title.5

The preamble of an 1891 law would provide further explanation of the actions that resulted in the termination of the corporation known as the “Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church.” The terms of its 1873 corporate Charter had been violated because the shares of stock had not been sold, but the lots were sold for the same amount as a share of stock, fifty dollars. Some lot owners received a share of stock, but others did not. In addition, the taxes which the 1873 Act indicated were to be levied on real estate were charged wholly against the owners of the lots which had been sold; the Association paid no taxes thus making the lot owners bear the burden of improvements on land owned by the Association. Therefore, the 1891 law revoked the Charter of “The Rehoboth Beach Association” (originally the “Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church”). All land which was formerly owned by the Rehoboth Beach Association was now to be known as Cape Henlopen City, and the corporation was to be called “The Commissioners of Cape Henlopen City.” The corporation listed its purpose as providing and maintaining a permanent seaside resort, as well as furnishing the necessary and proper conveniences and attractions requisite for its success. The Charter specifically stated that it remained unlawful to sell intoxicating liquor within the incorporated area. Seven Commissioners, all of whom were to be freeholders of Cape Henlopen City, were to be elected to serve three-year terms. They were to choose one of their members to serve as President and one as Secretary. Also to be elected were a Treasurer and three Auditors of Accounts, all to serve one-year terms. The Commissioners had the authority to make regulations and ordinances, to provide for sanitary measures for the health of the citizens, and to cause nuisances to be removed and abated. All roads within Cape Henlopen City were to be public highways and were to be placed under the oversight of the Commissioners with the Levy Court of Sussex County allocating a sum of money to assist in maintaining the roads. All unsold lots were vested in the Commissioners, and they were authorized to borrow $5,000 and issue bonds with which to satisfy and cancel mortgages standing as a lien on the real estate. The Commissioners were also authorized to collect a general tax not exceeding $1,000 annually, to be assessed against all real estate within the limits of the city, as well as to collect a special tax, which along with the monies received from the sale of lots, would pay the annual interest on the bonds and establish a sinking fund to redeem them at maturity.6

Several laws amended what Rehoboth Beach considers to be its 1891 Incorporating Act. The first, in 1893, would change the name of the town from Cape Henlopen City to Rehoboth. This law also authorized the Commissioners to engage an agent to sell the lots which were vested in them; to provide for a ten-year suspension in municipal taxes to be charged on improvements on the lots, and to authorize a reduction in taxes for those who paid these in advance of the due date. The Commissioners were also to choose a resident of the Town to serve as Alderman, and to appoint constables who were to act as a Police force.7 The next amendments were made in two laws enacted in 1895; the first eliminated the provision for selling intoxicating liquors and added provisions relating to state law on this subject, and the other terminated the exemption for taxing improvements on lots.8 In 1897, another law amended the 1891 Act among which were: making the Treasurer an appointed rather than an elected official; requiring that voters must have paid their municipal taxes; and appointing a local Justice of the Peace for Sussex County to adjudicate in keeping the peace and enforcing local laws.9


1900 – 1949

In 1901, the Town of Rehoboth was re-incorporated, and the incorporation was in the name of the “Commissioners of Rehoboth.” They were charged with “providing for the welfare of the Town, and the maintenance of a permanent seaside resort, furnish[ing] the proper conveniences and attractions requisite to the success of same. . .” Town electors included all people, male and female, who were over 21 years of age, a freeholder within the Town, and current in paying their municipal taxes. They were to elect seven Commissioners to serve staggered three-year terms and three Auditors of Accounts. The Commissioners, who must all be freeholders within the Town, were to meet in Rehoboth in the months of June, July, August, and September. Any meetings held during the remainder of the year could be held in Rehoboth or elsewhere in the State or even in the City of Baltimore. Among the responsibilities of the Commissioners at their initial meetings each year were to choose from among themselves a President and a Secretary, as well as to appoint a Town Treasurer who was to be a substantial freeholder of Lewes and Rehoboth Hundred, an Alderman who will have all of the powers of a Justice of the Peace within the Town, and Constables to serve as the Town Police. The unsold real estate of the Town was vested in the Commissioners and they were empowered to sell or dispose of it in a manner that would be advantageous to the Town. This Incorporating Act contained an extensive list of the powers which were granted to the Commissioners. Among these were: to prevent vice, drunkenness and immorality restraining and removing drunkards, vagrants, and beggars; to preserve the peace and good order; to prevent and quell riots, disturbances and noisy assemblages; to restrain and suppress gaming houses and houses of ill fame and to prohibit all gaming; to regulate all sports and exhibitions and to license same; to establish the boundaries of streets, the beach and beach strand; to regulate, repair, pave, and remove obstructions from the streets, sidewalks, wharves and docks; to regulate the paving of sidewalks and to place liens of the property for the cost; to regulate the laying of pipes in the streets for whatever purpose and to prohibit this at certain times of the year; to regulate the planting and trimming of ornamental shade trees in the streets and parks and prohibit their destruction; to enforce the removal of snow, ice or dirt from sidewalks by the owners or occupants of the adjoin property; to direct the digging down, filling up or fencing of lots which are deemed dangerous; to provide lamps and light the streets and public places; to make and regulate wells, pumps and cisterns; to prevent and punish horse racing and immoderate driving or riding in any street; to prevent the driving of horses or livestock through the streets on Sunday and to regulate it at other times; to establish a pound and to restrain the running at large of livestock and dogs and to authorize the sale or destruction of animals impounded; to regulate and remove slaughter houses  and hog pens, privies and water closets; to abate and remove nuisances of all kinds at the expenses of those maintaining the same particularly those which might be a public health concern particularly those which might be a public health concern; to regulate, and grant permits for, the manner of building and removal of same including the construction and sweeping of  chimneys; to prohibit the carrying on of manufactories dangerous in causing or promoting fires; to regulate the sale or use of fireworks and use of firearms; to establish a suitable drainage system for the Town; and to regulate or prohibit swimming or bathing in the ocean. The Commissioners were authorized to levy taxes of no more than $2,500 annually which was to be assessed against all real estate in just and equal proportions. Deductions for paying taxes in a timely manner were established as were penalties for late payment.10

Two years later, the Town of Rehoboth was once again re-incorporated. Eligible electors were those who owned land in the Town, whether or not they were a resident of the State, and any male above the age of 21 who was a Delaware resident for a year and a resident of Rehoboth for three months; all electors must have paid their municipal taxes. Six of the Town’s seven Commissioners were now elected to serve two-year terms; all were required to be freeholders in the Town. The other Commissioner was elected as President of the Board of Commissioners and Mayor for a one-year term; Town residency was a requirement of this position. Also elected annually to serve one-year terms were an Assessor, a Tax Collector, an Inspector of Elections, two Judges of Elections, and three Auditors of Accounts. The only appointed Town officials mentioned in the Act are the Treasurer and the Constables. No Alderman was to be appointed; however, within the Town limits, the Mayor was to have all of the powers of a Justice of the Peace. The Commissioners were now required to meet at least monthly and these meetings were to take place in Rehoboth. All unsold real estate within the Town was vested in them and they were to plot and lay out streets through unplotted areas and to plot and sell lots. The enumerated powers of the Commissioners was expanded to include the authority to enter into a contract with or grant a franchise to whomever applies to construct or operate a plant for furnishing electric lights, power, gas, or water for the Town as well as for the construction or operation of railways, for the construction and operation of sewers or other sanitary systems of drainage, or for the erection of wharves and piers. Many of the other provisions of the 1901 Incorporating Act were included in the 1903 Act. All male residents, above the age of 21, were to be assessed a per capita tax of not more than $1, and the amount of the annual taxation on real estate was increased to up to $3,000 annually. A new provision allowed for a ten-year tax exemption to be granted to for owners of hotels, apartment buildings, or public buildings with a construction cost of at least $10,000. Another new provision in this Act provided for the Levy Court of Sussex County to allocate $300 towards the expense of repairing the streets of the Town whose maintenance was under the sole supervision of the Commissioners.11

Within seven years the Town of Rehoboth would again re-incorporate as the “Commissioners of Rehoboth.” There was no change in the elected or appointed Town officials. Much of the 1911 Act mirrored that of 1903 with some minor changes. There were new provisions added on how streets would be vacated as well as expanded provisions on laying sidewalks, particularly actions to be taken by the Commissioners when an owner was not able to pay the associated costs. Another section of the Act that was expanded related to the assessment of taxes. Included in the provisions was an expansion of the per capita tax which now was to be applied to female as well as residents, and an increase in the amount of taxation on real estate to $4,000 annually. The amount the Town received from the Levy Court of Sussex County for road maintenance was increased to $600.12 

In 1913, several laws were enacted related to providing water for the Town of Rehoboth. One law authorized the Commissioners to borrow $30,000 for the purpose of erecting a waterworks to furnish water for domestic use and for fighting fires. The funds borrowed could also be used to do whatever was needed to establish the waterworks, including purchasing equipment, repairing the streets damaged when laying water pipes and installing a drainage system, and purchasing hoses and hose carriages for suppressing fires. The bonds to be issued were to be repaid by a special tax to property owners with no more than $1,000 collected annually to repay the interest, and no more than an additional $1,000 annually to establish a sinking fund to repay the bonds. The issuing of bonds to secure these funds could not be initiated without referendum approval which was by weighted vote tied to the amount of real estate taxes paid; both males and females were eligible to vote. A second law created the Rehoboth Board of Public Works which was responsible for erecting, equipping and operating the waterworks system. The Board was to be made up of five members, all freeholders within the Town, who were to be elected to serve two-year terms. Residents were to be charged for use of the water and this revenue was to be used to support the operation of the system. Any surplus funds were to be paid to the Commissioners to make payments on the water bonds. If funding from water fees was insufficient to sustain the operations, the Commissioners were to provide additional funds needed. To this end, a third law authorized the Commissioners to be able to levy a special tax of no more than $1,000 annually from all property owners in support of the operation of the water system.13

In December 1914, a nor’easter was responsible for devastating the entire oceanfront in the Town of Rehoboth. The storm removed all protection from encroachment by the ocean along the shore leaving all lands and property at the mercy of the tides and storms. It undermined Surf Avenue, destroyed the boardwalk, and damaged oceanfront buildings. This event was the impetus for a number of laws which were passed beginning in 1915. A law was passed which authorized Surf Avenue to be vacated and a bulkhead established to provide a barrier to ocean encroachment. The Commissioners were also given the power to establish building lines and to require that property owners install proper bulkheading. To assist in making repairs to the streets of the Town, the Commissioners were authorized to borrow $20,000. A special tax was to be levied to ensure payment of the interest and principal for the bonds which secured the loan; no referendum approval was required. Also in 1915, the general real estate tax levied in the Town was increased to not to exceed $7,000 annually.14 The $20,000 borrowed by the Town in 1915 proved insufficient to complete the repairs required to protect the oceanfront, so in 1917, recognizing that the Town of Rehoboth was Delaware’s only seaside resort and therefore, was of special interest and importance to its citizens, an appropriation of $10,000 was authorized by the General Assembly of the State of Delaware funds to assist in the effort of making repairs. Also in 1917, a law was enacted that indicated that the western boundary of the Town of Rehoboth was the Government Canal (known today and the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal).15 In 1920, the Delaware General Assembly resolved that a Commission be established consisting of two representatives from the Delaware House and two from the Delaware Senate with the fifth representative appointed by the Governor. Working with an engineer, they were to examine the conditions along the oceanfront in Rehoboth and to make a recommendation as to whether further steps should be taken to prevent the wasting away of lands.16 A year later, likely based on the recommendations in the report, the General Assembly appropriated $35,000 with which to erect groins and jetties running parallel to the shoreline at various locations along the oceanfront of the Town.17 This would be the first of a number of appropriations (including an additional $25,000 in 192518) for which the State of Delaware would provide funding to assist the Town of Rehoboth in preventing beach erosion by erecting or repairing the groins and jetties which can still be seen today extending from the shoreline into the ocean. In 1927, a Commission established by the Delaware General Assembly to survey Delaware’s public lands determined that certain lots along the Atlantic Ocean at the north end of Rehoboth which were shown on the 1873 plot of the Rehoboth Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church fell into the category of public land. It was determined that the best use for this land would be a park which was established under the joint control of the Public Lands Commission and the Commissioners of Rehoboth. Rehoboth was to provide funds for its care and improvement, and today still maintains this land, located east of N. Surf Avenue, southeast of Henlopen Avenue, and north of a line extending Pennsylvania Avenue, as a public park. In the same year, the Public Lands Commission deeded another part of Rehoboth which had also been part of the plot of the Rehoboth Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church to individuals that had already purchased lots within the area and to the Town of Rehoboth who was deeded the streets.19

In 1927, Rehoboth was re-incorporated and the corporate boundaries were expanded. The expanded boundary included an area called Rehoboth Heights which was south of Philadelphia Street, the prior southern boundary of the Town. This expansion may have been the impetus for the re-incorporation as for the most part, with minor changes, this Act mirrors the 1911 Incorporating Act. Other changes of note were the establishment of a three-person Board of Assessment, and a major increase in the amount of tax that could be levied, to capped at $50,000 annually.20

A number of laws which authorized Rehoboth to borrow money were also enacted in 1927. The first authorized $15,000 to be used to purchase water mains, piping, and equipment for the water system that had been installed privately in Rehoboth Heights; this law required referendum approval. A second law authorized Rehoboth to borrow up to $40,000 for road and street improvement, and a third to borrow $25,000 to improve the water system by sinking new wells and purchasing equipment. Neither of these laws required referendum approval but all laws authorizing debt to the Town required a special tax be levied to ensure repayment. A fourth law allowing the $20,000 in bonds was authorized in 1915 to make repairs after a devastating storm also to be redeemed and refunded in order to lower the interest rate from 6% to 5%.21 An additional law authorizing Rehoboth to borrow money was passed in 1929 when referendum approval was requested to borrow $25,000 with which to extend, enlarge, repair and improve the boardwalk.22 In 1933, a law provided Rehoboth with the authority to borrow up to $165,000 in order to establish and maintain a municipal sewer system and sewage treatment plant. Upon completion of the project, the Commissioners were to determine the total cost of the project and then apportion 50% of this cost against the owners of the properties abutting to the streets where the sewer lines were laid. The amount to be paid was to be based on the square footage of the building served or apportioned according to the frontage of the property on which the buildings were erected, or both. Buildings which were not residences were to pay a supplemental cost. An installment plan was offered, but if refused the entire amount would be due immediately and delinquency in payment of this would be a lien on the property. A referendum was required before this law could be implemented.23 Technical amendments were made to the referendum portion of the law in the latter part of 1933.24

In 1937 Rehoboth was once again reincorporated, and a Charter was established. While the corporation was still in the name of the “Commissioners of Rehoboth,” the name of the municipality was changed to the City of Rehoboth Beach. This Act made no expansion to the corporate boundaries, but it did change the structure of the government. The seven Commissioners, one of whom served as Mayor, remained elected officials, but all other positions within the government of the City of Rehoboth Beach were now appointed. The officials, who were to be appointed at the Board of Commissioners annual organizational meeting included: a City Manager, Treasurer, three Auditors, four-member Board of Health, Town Solicitor, three-member Board of Assessment, and the Police force as well as any other employees of the City which were deemed necessary. The enumerated powers of the City reflected some changes but were not significantly expanded from those contained within prior Incorporating Acts. In re-addressing how City services would be carried out, the Charter expanded the provisions of the 1923 law regarding the establishment of a sewer system by placing it under the general administrative supervision of the City Manager who would determine when and how additional assessments would be carried out to ensure sufficient funds were available to repay the sewer bonds. The responsibility for collecting charges due to the City, such as water rents, license fees, tapping charges, charges under the abatement of nuisances, laying out and repairing sidewalks, was also placed under the supervision of the City Manager who also managed the process for addressing non-payment of such charges. The Charter also contained provisions relating to paving, guttering, and curbing; streets; jetties, bulkheads and boardwalks; the water system; the sewer system; the electric, gas and power plants and franchises; and drainage. The Commissioners were authorized to sell any City property, but if the anticipated revenue was expected to exceed $2,000, referendum approval was required before proceeding with the sale. This included any unsold lots which were part of the land contained in Rehoboth’s original corporate boundary. Taxation was capped at $75,000 annually. The Commissioners could grant a tax exemption provided that the property owner expended at least $50,000 in the construction of permanent improvements. The Commissioners were authorized to borrow money in order to provide the City’s residents with gas, electricity, water, sewers, and also for construction or repair of streets, curbs, gutters, jetties, bulkheads or boardwalks; however, referendum approval was required before issuing bonds. The referendum vote was weighted so that each property owner had one vote for every dollar or partial dollar paid in taxes. The City’s bonded indebtedness, in aggregate, was not to exceed 15% of the assessed value of its taxable real estate. Establishment of a sinking fund, to ensure the bonds could be redeemed when due, was required.25 Also in 1937 and because of the changes which were included in the Charter, the 1933 law establishing a sewer system was amended to reflect the requirement for an annual survey of all taxable properties within the City which would determine their square footage, any increase in square footage of existing buildings, and any construction or razing of buildings resulting in increased or decreased usage. This would inform the need to make any changes in the assessment of sewer fees.26

Amendments to the 1937 Charter contained in a 1941 law included numerous technical corrections and minor revisions; among the more significant revisions were: to change the City’s fiscal year to begin on July 1; to provide the City with the ability to contribute up to 2% of the total tax levied on real estate annually to the City’s volunteer fire company; to revise the procedures used by the City Manager in collecting charges due the City; and to expand the reasons for incurring debt to the City resulting in the need to issue bonds.27 In September 1944, a major hurricane was responsible for the destruction of public property in Rehoboth Beach resulting in costs of over $22,500 for repairs. In 1945, the General Assembly appropriated to Rehoboth Beach half of the documented repair costs. In the same year, Rehoboth amended its Charter to allow for a referendum to be held whenever public property is destroyed by a catastrophic event arising from forces outside human control in order to raise funds to repair or replace the property.28 In 1947, additional amendments were made to the City’s 1937 Charter; some of these were minor but the law contained several important revisions including: increasing the annual cap on taxes to $90,000; significantly revising the City’s enumerated powers, and laying out new provisions for street improvement. The new street improvement process allowed for a majority of the property owners along a street frontage to petition for its repair including paving, curbing, sewer mains and laterals. Rehoboth would agree to pay a third of the cost of improving a street, but the all property owners which abutted the impacted segment would be responsible for the remainder of the costs. Because of the financial implication to City residents, referendum approval was required before it could be implemented.29 In 1949, several laws amended the 1937 Charter as follows: increase the percentage of the City’s real estate taxes which may be contributed to the volunteer fire company form 2% to 3%; extend the Mayor’s term of office from one year to two years; and increase the cap on taxes to $100,000 with $5,000 to be set-aside for mosquito control, and an additional $5,000 to be set-aside, as needed, for a sinking fund to be used to repair or replace machinery in the water department.30


1950 – 1999

Two 1951 laws made additional technical corrections to the Charter and increased the cap on taxes to $112,500 annually.31 The cap on taxes was increased again in 1953, to $125,000. Also in 1953, a law indicated that Rehoboth Beach had issued bonds in 1952 in the amount of $185,000 for the purpose of making improvements to the water system. There must have been legal concerns as to how the bond issue was accomplished as the purpose of the 1953 law was to validate the action.32 In 1955, the cap on taxes was once again increased, to $150,000. Another law that year was a renewed attempt to initiate the provisions for street improvements proposed in 1947 but had not received referendum approval. The new process contained many of the same provisions contained in the earlier law, but did make some changes to account for concerns raised by City residents. No referendum was required so the street improvement provisions were amended to the Charter.33 In 1957, the cap on taxes was increased to $175,000 with a further increased to $200,000 to take place in 1959.34 A 1959 law increased the cap to $225,000, beginning in 1960.35

After twenty-six years, the Charter of Rehoboth Beach was revised in 1963. The corporate name of the “Commissioners of Rehoboth Beach” was retained, and the territorial limits of the City remained unchanged. However, the new Charter provided for Rehoboth Beach to have the ability to annex additional land, in whole or in parts, within a specific area defined in the Charter. The area of possible annexation included all that land located along the Delaware shore south of Penn Street, encompassing all of what is now Dewey Beach (incorporated as a separate town in 1981), as well as all of the land that was east of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, of which only a very small piece has subsequently been annexed. The new Charter made no revisions in the structure of the government. Amendments that had been made since 1937 were incorporated, including to add the new process related to street improvement; to revise the enumeration of specific powers; to indicate that delinquency in paying taxes or any other fees due the City, such as water rents, electric bills, license fees, etc., was a lien on the property; and to expand the list of reasons for which the City could borrow money. However, in other ways, the format of the 1953 Charter mirrored that of 1937.36

The first amendments to the 1963 Charter were made in 1965 when two laws made technical revisions to the Charter, and one law increased the annual cap on taxation to $475,000.37 A 1967 law made twenty-nine changes to the Charter, a number of which were significant. The corporate name was changed from “The Commissioners of Rehoboth Beach” to “The City of Rehoboth Beach,” and the provisions in the 1963 Charter which specified the area of possible annexation was eliminated and replaced with a procedure for annexation. The law also provided that while all Commissioners must be a freeholder (as newly defined in the revised text), only three Commissioners plus the Mayor must reside in the City and that the Commission was now required to meet at least once monthly. Further revisions outlined a new process for removing the City Manager and other City employees as well as the process for hiring the City Solicitor, and also gave the responsibility for the management of the Police force and the Beach Patrol to the City Manager. A new power was authorized to enable the establishment of a pension or health and welfare plan for the City’s employees. The 1967 revisions also allowed for those who had a ten-year or more lease to be taxed for improvements on that land. It also clarified that the cap on taxation of $475,000 did not include the amount which might need to be raised to repay bonded indebtedness. Another law in 1967 revised the Charter by establishing the positions of Alderman and Assistant Alderman who would be appointed by the Mayor to serve indefinite terms.38

Revisions were made to the Charter in almost every year in the 1970s. In 1970, an additional eight revisions were made to the 1963 Charter among which were allowing for certain leaseholders (as defined in the law) to hold elective office and to vote in elections, as well as to authorize the Commissioners to borrow in anticipation of revenue an amount not more than $100,000.39 In 1971, the provisions for rebating early payment or applying penalties to late payment of taxes was revised.40 In 1972, the annual cap on taxation was increased to $725,000.41 In 1973, three separate laws made a number of revisions to the Charter to include: lowering the voting age to age 18; establishing a revised process for removing the Alderman and Assistant Alderman from office, and authorizing the collection of a transfer tax on the sale of real estate if approved by the voters.42 In 1975, the Charter was amended to establish a process by which residents could petition and request a referendum on any adopted ordinance except those dealing with budgets, general or capital; taxes; and the appropriation of money.43 In 1976, two laws made a number of minor changes, and also increased the annual cap on taxation to $1 million; established a new procedure to pay the cost of sidewalks, gutters and curbs; provided for one person, one vote during referendums on annexation and borrowing money; and increased the amount that could be borrowed, in aggregate, to 25% of the value of the City’s taxable real estate.44 In 197745 and in 1979,46 various laws made minor revisions to the Charter. Amendments to the Charter continued in the 1980s. In 1981, the amount that could be borrowed in anticipation of revenue was increased to $250,000; the amount which could be contracted for without competitive bidding was increased to $5,000, and the penalty for being delinquent in paying taxes was increased.47 In 1983, the responsibilities of the Police force were revised, and it was determined that the Alderman could live outside the city limits of Rehoboth.48 In 1985, two laws amended the Charter to remove the percentage of donation which went to the volunteer fire department, letting this be at the discretion of the City, and adding a provision that an ordinance could be adopted subject to referendum approval.49 In 1986, two laws were passed which amended the Charter: the first removed the term “non-delinquent taxpayer” from the qualifications for elective office, and the second added a new section which indemnified City officials and employees.50 In 1987, in addition to several other minor changes, the term of office for the Mayor and Commissioners was extended to three years, and the City’s election procedures were revised. Also in 1987, a law referenced the fact that Rehoboth Beach had issued bonds in the amount of $3 million in order to finance the construction of improvements to its sewage treatment plant.51 [No law actually authorizing this debt was found.] Additional amendments to the Charter were added in a number of laws enacted throughout the 1990s. A 1991 law made a number of revisions to the Charter including: making revisions to the elections process including allowing absentee ballots and requiring voters to have been residents for six months; expanding the definition of real property to include condos; requiring all Commissioners to be U.S. citizens; and requiring that the Mayor be a resident of Rehoboth Beach for a year prior to seeking office.52 This was followed in 1992 by a law which clarified who qualified to vote by absentee ballot.53 In 1954, the debt limit, in aggregate, on general obligation bonds was increased from $250,000 to $1 million, and the procedure for issuing bonds was revised to allow for redeeming and refunding bonds without a referendum if it would result in savings to the City.54 In two laws enacted in 1995, fines were increased for violating ordinances, and new provisions were established for issuing bonds.55 In 1997, revisions were made to the regulations governing the Commissioners sale of land.56


2000 – Current

Ten laws have amended the 1963 Charter since 2000. The first of these, enacted in that year, eliminated the requirement for the City to hold at least one Commission meeting every month.57 In 2002, new procedures were established related to awarding contracts and competitive bidding.58 In 2006, two laws amended the Charter; the first of these authorized the City to borrow up to $3 million without referendum; the second made changes in a number of ways including: eliminating the Board of Health; revising the duties of the Auditor and City Solicitor; eliminating the cap on the pension plan; and increasing the annual cap on taxes to $3 million.59 Two laws passed in 2007 which made revisions in voter qualifications and in election and referendum procedures as well as revoked the authority of the City to tax property at the time of transfer.60 A 1961 law authorized Rehoboth Beach to increase its debt limit to $50 million, in aggregate.61 A law in 2013, changed the way in which the Alderman and Assistant Alderman were to be appointed as well as their duties.62 In 2014, numerous revisions to the Charter were made in a law enacted that year. Among these were: eliminating the Board of Assessment and replacing it with a single Tax Assessor; eliminating the per capita tax; establishing a new supplemental assessment process for sewers; instituting a garbage and refuse collection fee; revising the procedures for the collection of delinquent taxes; and expanding the delinquency charges which the City was able to include as a first lien on a property to include front foot assessments, water rents, sewer charges, tapping fees, electric bills, gas bills, license fees, gross receipt taxes, charges related to abating nuisances, laying out or repairing sidewalks, laying out and repairing paving, guttering and curbing.63 In 2015, the City’s maximum bonded indebtedness was again increased to $75 million.64

For the fully amended text of the current Charter, see


View Selected Photographs of Rehoboth Beach


CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 14 Del. Laws, c. 392 (1873) [pp. 360-63]

2 15 Del. Laws, c. 355 (1877) [pp. 410-12]

3 16 Del. Laws, c. 27 (1879) [p. 37]

4 16 Del. Laws, c. 351 (1881) [pp. 366-67]

5 17 Del. Laws, c. 46 (1883) [pp. 77-78]

6 19 Del. Laws, c. 227 (1891) [pp. 448-57]

7 19 Del. Laws, c. 767 (1893) [pp. 1109-12]

8 20 Del. Laws, c. 109 and c. 110 (1895) [p. 171 and p. 172]

9 20 Del. Laws, c. 546 (1897) [pp. 658-60]

10 22 Del. Laws, c. 200 (1901) [pp. 470-82]

11 22 Del. Laws, c. 432 (1903) [pp. 904-20]

12 26 Del. Laws, c. 240 (1911) [pp. 632-58]

13 27 Del. Laws, c. 247, c. 248, and c. 249 (1913) [pp. 724-33, pp. 234-40, and p. 741]

14 28 Del. Laws, c. 152, c. 153, and c. 154 (1915) [p. 458, pp. 459-60, and pp. 461-62]

15 29 Del. Laws, c. 165 and c. 166 (1917) [pp. 588-89 and p. 590]

16 31 Del. Laws, c. 72 (1920) [p. 240]

17 32 Del. Laws, c. 6 (1921) [pp. 10-11]

18 34 Del. Laws, c. 7 (1925) [pp. 18-19]

19 35 Del. Laws, c. 4 and c. 61 (1927) [pp. 9-10 and p. 157]

20 35 Del. Laws, c. 133 (1927) [pp. 424-47]

21 35 Del. Laws, c. 129, c. 130, c. 131, and c. 132 (1927) [pp. 407-11, pp. 412-14, pp. 415-18, and pp. 419-23]

22 36 Del. Laws, c. 188 (1929) [pp. 568-73]

23 38 Del. Laws, c. 119 and c. 120 (1933) [pp. 463-78 and pp. 479-83]

24 39 Del. Laws, c. 24 (1933) [pp. 80-83]

25 41 Del. Laws, c. 161 (1937) [pp. 464-545]

26 41 Del. Laws, c. 162 and c. 163 (1937) [pp. 546-47 and c. 548-52]

27 43 Del. Laws, c. 177 (1941) [pp. 767-82]

28 45 Del. Laws, c. 50 and c. 166 (1945) [p. 281 and pp. 622-24]

29 46 Del. Laws, c. 243 (1947) [pp. 651-71]

30 47 Del. Laws, c. 54, c. 55, and c. 96 (1949) [p. 96, p. 97, and p. 151]

31 48 Del. Laws, c. 71 and c. 177 (1951) [p. 153 and p. 506]

32 49 Del. Laws, c. 200 and c. 259 (1953) [p. 333 and p. 486]

33 50 Del. Laws, c. 212 and c. 213 (1955) [p. 384 and pp. 385-90]

34 51 Del. Laws, c. 220 and c. 221 (1957) [p. 425 and p. 426]

35 52 Del. Laws, c. 28 (1959) [p. 73]

36 54 Del. Laws, c. 197 (1963) [pp. 599-684]

37 55 Del. Laws, c. 70, c. 71, and c. 260 (1965) [p. 151, p. 152, and p. 699]

38 56 Del. Laws, c. 61 and c. 194 (1967) [pp. 277-95 and pp. 649-51]

39 57 Del. Laws, c. 410 (1970) [pp. 1176-81]

40 58 Del. Laws, c. 129 (1971) [p. 281]

41 58 Del. Laws, c. 339 (1972) [p. 1061]

42 59 Del. Laws, c. 4, c. 78, and c. 182 (1973) [pp. 11-14, p. 137, and pp. 504-06]

43 60 Del. Laws, c. 121 (1975) [pp. 471-77]

44 60 Del. Laws, c. 556, c. 622, and c. 623 (1976) [p. 1865, pp. 2026-38, and p. 2039]

45 61 Del. Laws, c. 58 and c. 61 (1977) [p. 82 and pp. 86-87]

46 62 Del. Laws, c. 4 and c. 50 (1979) [p. 5 and p. 58]

47 63 Del. Laws, c. 34, c. 138, and c. 225 (1981) [p. 50, p. 257, and p. 485]

48 64 Del. Laws, c. 83 (1983) [pp. 145-46]

49 65 Del. Laws, c. 33 and c. 34 (1985) [p. 26 and p. 27]

50 65 Del. Laws, c. 438 and c. 439 (1986) [p. 850 and p. 851]

51 66 Del. Laws, c. 39, c. 59, and c. 60 (1987) [p. 78, pp. 100-01, and p. 102]

52 68 Del. Laws, c. 40 (1991) [pp. 79-81]

53 68 Del. Laws, c. 305 (1992) [p. 1062]

54 69 Del. Laws, c. 185 (1994) [p. 414]

55 70 Del. Laws, c. 127 and c. 174 (1995) [p. 364 and p. 440]

56 71 Del. Laws, c. 141 (1997) [p. 384]

57 72 Del. Laws, c. 355 (2000) [p. 633]

58 73 Del. Laws, c. 246 (2002) [pp. 652-54]

59 75 Del. Laws, c. 241 and c. 383 (2006) [p. 331 and p. 524]

60 76 Del. Laws, c. 18 and c. 61 (2007) [vol. I, p. 22-23 and vol. I, pp. 57-60]

61 78 Del. Laws, c. 358 (2012) []

62 79 Del. Laws, c. 49 (2013) []

63 79 Del. Laws, c. 383 (2014) []

64 80 Del. Laws, c. 42 (2015) []

Delaware Laws from 1935 to present can be found online at

Records at DPA

Rehoboth Beach records at the Delaware Public Archives include:

  • Administrative Files, Alderman Court (1966-1979): 7180-000-001
  • Minutes of the Commissioners (1891-1991): 7180-000-002
  • Land Records (1875-1910): 7180-000-003
  • Criminal Records, Alderman Court (1952-1973, 1983-2006): 7180-000-004
    • Criminal Docket Indices (1968-1970)
  • Maps and Plans (Sanitary Sewer System Plans) (1930-1939): 7180-000-005
  • Assessment Records (1936): 7180-000-006


jnl / April 5, 2019 | April 22, 2019