The Rehoboth Beach Board of Commissioners voted for the second time in eight months on June 30 to overturn a decision by the beach resort city’s Planning Commission to approve plans by the Clear Space Theatre Company to build a larger theater and adjacent rehearsal theater in a new location.
Supporters of the theater project, including many of Rehoboth’s LGBTQ residents and summer visitors, expressed outrage over the Board of Commissioners 4 to 3 vote to reject the Planning Commission’s approval and deny the Clear Space application to build its proposed new theaters on Rehoboth Avenue, which serves as the city’s main commercial boulevard.
The four commissioners voting to overturn the theater’s approval were Rehoboth Mayor Stan Mills, gay Commissioner Patrick Gossett, and fellow Commissioners Susan Gay and Jay Lagree. The three who voted against overturning the approval were gay Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski, lesbian Commissioner Pat Coluzzi, and Commissioner Richard Byrne.
The controversial vote to overturn the theater project approval came in response to an official appeal against the Planning Commission’s Feb. 26 approval of the project filed by 63 Rehoboth homeowners or renters, including D.C. gay attorney Harvey Shulman, who owns one of the homes near where the new theater buildings were to be built.
Shulman said at least 15 percent of those who signed on as appellants are gay. He and other opponents have said the two proposed theater buildings — a 14,949-square-foot main theater and a 9,950-square-foot rehearsal theater — are unsuitable in the three lots on Rehoboth Avenue where they were proposed to be built. Opponents say the two theater buildings would abut a residential neighborhood that would suffer undue noise, traffic congestion, and parking problems caused by the theaters.
Clear Space submitted the two-theater building proposal after the Board of Commissioners refused to approve an exception to the zoning code requested by Clear Space for an earlier plan for one larger 25,599-square-foot theater building. City officials noted the zoning code required any building larger than 15,000 square feet to provide 100 or more indoor or onsite parking spaces, which Clear Space said it did not have the financial resources to fulfill.
In a development that angered the opponents, Clear Space submitted a new plan for the two smaller buildings, which under the zoning code does not require Clear Space to provide any parking spaces for the project.
Clear Space has said its site plan would address noise and parking issues and it complies with the city’s zoning code. Others supporting the theater have argued that anyone who chose to buy a home adjacent to a busy commercial street like Rehoboth Avenue should expect to deal with some noise and parking issues, which for years residents of the popular beach resort town have managed to deal with.
The commissioners who voted to overturn the Planning Commission’s approval of the project cited as their main concern the contention by Shulman and the other appellants that the Planning Commission approved the project without ever having received or seen a code-complaint application, including a code-compliant set of drawings or plans for the project. The appellants said the Planning Commission allegedly only had in its possession an earlier application that was not in compliance with the city’s zoning code.
Wesley Paulson, executive director of Clear Space Theatre Company, and Commissioner Chrzanowski each told the Washington Blade that the Planning Commission was informed by the city’s building inspector that the Clear Space application and building site plans fully complied with all city codes.
The two pointed out that the building inspector, in consultation with the Planning Commission, set several conditions based on an earlier Clear Space application that had a minor code violation related to ceiling heights in one or more stair wells that should be corrected. Paulson and Chrzanowski pointed out that those changes were made.
Chrzanowski said he and his fellow commissioners who voted against overturning the project’s approval strongly disagree with the rationale by Mills, who serves as mayor, and the other three commissioners that the Planning Commission acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner in its decision to approve the theater’s application.
“It is my opinion that they were not acting any way in that fashion,” Chrzanowski said of the Planning Commission. “The fact of the matter is these appellants, they don’t care whether or not a drop ceiling in a stairwell needed to be reduced by six inches or not,” he said.
“They just oppose the project because they don’t want it in their back yard,” he told the Blade. “It has nothing to do with a process or a code. They just don’t want it in town, and it’s unfortunate.”
Shulman disputes that claim, saying existing Rehoboth law requires that the Planning Commission could not legally approve an application that never came before it and never became available to the public for review.
“This is not a question of whether you like the theater or you don’t like the theater,” he said. “There is a process that has to be followed. And the public has a right to have input. And that didn’t happen here.”
Among the Clear Space supporters who have criticized the Board of Commissioners who voted against the theater is longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate Peter Rosenstein, who has a residence just outside the Rehoboth city boundary. Among other things, Rosenstein dismisses Shulman’s claim that a significant number of gay residents wanted the Board of Commissioners to overturn the theater’s approval.
“He’s got 20 gays that don’t support it and there are 3,000 that support it,” said Rosenstein. “They can find any excuse they want,” Rosenstein said in response to claims that the Planning Commission never received the theater’s final, revised application.
“The Planning Commission didn’t make any mistake,” he said. “The theater was code compliant. They met every condition the Planning Commission wanted. Technicality or not, they were going to find an excuse to turn it down.”
Paulson, the Clear Space executive director, said he remains hopeful that Clear Space will be allowed to resubmit its final, fully code complaint application to the Planning Commission for another quick and legally mandated approval without having to start the application process over again from scratch.
Supporters say starting over could take six months or more to obtain another round of approval from multiple city agencies and inspectors, a process that would add to Clear Space’s financial burden. They note that the application process has already taken three years since Clear Space first proposed to move from its current location in a rented former church on Baltimore Avenue near the city’s boardwalk.
Paulson said another option under consideration is to take the matter to court in a lawsuit to challenge the legality of the Board of Commissioners action. But he said he would prefer not to take that action if another option becomes available.
Paulson points to Board of Commissioners member Susan Gay, who voted to overturn the Planning Commission’s approval of the project but who stated in an interview on a Rehoboth radio show the day following the Board of Commissioners’ vote that she didn’t believe the theater would have to begin a new application process.
“So, Susan, do they have to go back and start this process all over like a six-month plan again,” Radio Rehoboth talk show host Jeff Balk asked Gay in an early morning interview on July 1.
“No,” Gay replied. “So, part of Plan B is they can submit code compliant plans today,” she said. “I understand they do exist. If that’s the case, submit them. And at that point, I would hope the Planning Commission would expeditiously review it in compliance with the site plan review and it would result in a unanimous approval,” Gay said in the radio interview.
But both Chrzanowski, who wanted the city to approve the theater’s application, and Shulman, one of the lead opponents, each said that under existing Rehoboth law, a project like this must start the application process over again from scratch if it has been rejected twice by the Board of Commissioners.
“When you reject a decision by the Planning Commission for a second time, it’s dead,” Chrzanowski told the Blade. “You need to start from scratch,” he said. “There may be an administrative thing the city could do to help move it along faster, but that certainly is not Commissioner Gay’s decision,” he said. “So, she very much misspoke when she made those statements.”
Shulman told the Blade that if Clear Space chooses to start the application process over again, he believes the opponents of the project would be open to favorably consider the new application.
“If they come back with a new application, everyone will see whether it is code compliant,” he said. “I believe and the opponents have always said this – we will sit down with Donna West, who is the chair of the [Clear Space Theatre Company] board, and try to reach some agreement on what a code compliant application would be, so there is no opposition or, so the opposition is minimized.”
Comings & Goings
Roane named COO of Lambda Legal
The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].
Congratulations to John Roane appointed Lambda Legal’s Chief Operating Officer. On his appointment he said, “I’m delighted and honored to join Lambda Legal and its dedicated team of lawyers, paralegals, and support staff at this critical time in our movement. The forces that oppose our civil rights are organized and formidable, and Lambda Legal is our last line of defense.”
Prior to joining Lambda Legal, Roane was Vice President and COO at AIDS UNITED, Inc. He has also served in that role for the Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and with the Association of American Veterinary Colleges. He was Associate Director, Program Support Services with the DC Association of American Medical Colleges.
In his volunteer capacity, Roane was past chair of the board of directors, Finance and Administration Roundtable (FAR); former board secretary, Us Helping Us; and active with the Society of Human Resource Management, American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Food and Friends, and Dog World Rescue. He has also volunteered with CAMP Rehoboth.
Congratulations also to Jimmy Rock for being named a partner at Edelson PC, opening the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Rock said, “I’m thrilled to be joining this team helping to redefine what it means to be part of the plaintiffs’ bar.” His work focuses on consumer protection and environmental cases. He is also the lead for the firm’s Public Client Litigation.
Prior to joining Edelson PC, he was with the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia where he helped to start OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection. He also served five years as an Assistant Deputy Attorney General managing OAG’s Public Advocacy Division. Rock received the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award for Trial of Affirmative Litigation in 2015. He has served as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center; and as faculty at the National Attorneys General Training Institute’s “Trial of a Complex Consumer Case.” He has presented at numerous conferences.
Congratulations to Torey Carter-Conneen honored with a Business of Pride award from the Washington Business Journal. On accepting the award, he said, “I am humbled and honored to receive this recognition and be among an accomplished group of fellow leaders, and especially as we celebrate Pride.”
He is currently CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Prior to joining ASLA, he served as COO of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and previously he was the Senior Vice President and CFO for the Center for American Progress, COO and later acting president and CEO at the LGBTQ Victory Fund and Institute.
Outside of work, Carter-Conneen sits on the executive committee of the board for Shepherd’s Table in Silver Spring, Md., and serves on the board of the American Immigration Council. He and his husband Mike are fathers to two children, Drew and Aiden.
A busy July 4 weekend in Rehoboth Beach
Del Shores, Lady Bunny, Pamala Stanley and more set to entertain
As July 4 approaches, another Rehoboth Beach summer is abuzz with possibilities for in-person fun ranging from dinner downtown to live performances featuring local artists.
For starters, stop for dinner at Red, White & Basil. This brand-new restaurant was scheduled open its doors to the Rehoboth community on June 29 after making the move from D.C. to Route 1, where it can be found south of Coldwell Banker and just north of Big Fish. Mark Hunker and Jeff McCracken of Eden and JAM Bistro and Coho’s Market & Grill are behind the new venture.
Diego’s Bar & Nightclub (37298 Rehoboth Ave. Ext.) is entering the July 4 weekend strong. Kick off the new month with a happy hour Friday from 4-8 p.m. On Saturday, don’t miss a Splash Party from 5-7 p.m. or an Independance Party with DJ Steven J from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. all at the same venue.
Come back to the bar on Sunday from 4-8 p.m. for a happy hour followed by a 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Studio 54 Party with DJ Jeff Harrison. Round out your weekend at Diego’s with the show-stopping DJ during the bar’s July 4 Independence Day Dance from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Witness the wonder of local legends Kristina Kelly and Mona Lotts as they perform in a special July 4 drag brunch at The Pines, with doors opening at 56 Baltimore Ave. at 11:15 a.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online. Come back that evening for the Flaming Pianos show featuring local favorites John Flynn and Matthew Kenworthy from 6-9 p.m.
Also at the Pines is Furst Friday happy hour with the Rehoboth Beach Bears on July 1 from 6-8 p.m. That same night, the legendary Del Shores performs “The Tea is Spilled” at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Across the street at Aqua, don’t miss FireWerk with DJ Chord on Friday at 9 p.m.
The Blue Moon (35 Baltimore Ave.) has a robust lineup of entertainment planned, including Show Tunes Sunday on July 3 and Lady Bunny performing on July 4 from 9:30-11 p.m. Tickets are $44. Also at the Moon, don’t miss the talented New York City pianist Nate Buccieri, Monday-Thursday, 6-8:30 p.m.
Freddie’s Beach Bar continues its first summer season with karaoke on Thursdays and Sundays at 8 p.m., Drag Follies show Fridays at 9 p.m., and a DJ dance party on Saturdays at 8 p.m. Freddie’s also hosts the beloved Pamala Stanley on Sunday, July 3 from 6-9 p.m.
Stick around until Friday, July 8 and you can watch local drag star Magnolia Applebottom grace the stage of the Milton Theatre, located at 110 Union St. in Milton, Del. Doors open at 7 p.m., and tickets can be purchased for $20 online.
As visitors from far and wide eagerly await a Rehoboth Beach summer with fewer restrictions, these events will be sure to make everyone’s Independence Day this year is nothing short of spectacular.
Gay, lesbian incumbents, candidates on Md. county ballots
State’s primary is on July 19
The Washington Blade this week spoke with five openly gay and lesbian candidates who are either running for office or are seeking re-election in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Howard Counties.
Montgomery County Councilman Evan Glass
Evan Glass serves as the vice president of the Montgomery County Council and as its first openly LGBTQ member. Previously working for 12 years as a CNN journalist, he was first elected in 2018.
Glass told the Blade that running to continue as a member of the Council was rooted in the change that has been able to be made thus far.
“When I first raised the Pride flag in an official manner in 2019, I received a lot of pushback and hate,” Glass said. “But we persisted and have continued expanding Pride events and celebrating our beautiful diversity.”
Since his election, Glass’ initiatives in Montgomery County have included a host of local legislation aimed at promoting and furthering social justice and LGBTQ equality in the county.
Along with measures, such as the county’s Housing Justice Act and Oversight and Small Business Investment Act, Glass’ efforts led to the Council to pass its Pay Equity Act designed close the gender wage gap by modifying how the county determines salaries for employees. He also worked to spearhead the passage of the county’s LGBTQ Bill of Rights, which expanded its anti-discrimination code to include gender expression and HIV status and ban discrimination in areas such as healthcare facilities, nursing homes and personal care facilities.
As he makes his bid for reelection later this summer, Glass said that he hopes to expand on the accomplishments he has been able to make so far.
“I’m proud of my work to create more affordable housing, to make our buses free for all youth, and to keep our residents healthy and safe during the pandemic,” Glass said. “These efforts haven’t been easy, but they are critical to fostering a more fair and equitable community.”
Montgomery County Circuit Court Clerk Karen Bushell
Karen Bushell grew up in the Midwest before moving to the D.C. area in 1985, where she met her wife in 1995. Bushell had four children and her wife had two children when they met, and according to Bushell, “we had a very, very busy house.”
Bushell started serving in the judiciary in 2001 — as an HR associate, and then as a judicial assistant for many years. When Barbara Michael retired as Clerk of the Court in April 2021, Bushell was appointed to the position, making her the first openly LGBTQ person to hold it.
The Clerk of the Court serves as an independent record keeper of what happens in the courts, and Bushell described the clerk’s role as primarily that of a public servant.
“I love my job; I love being part of the judiciary. Being a public servant, it’s always good to know at the end of the day, that you help somebody,” Bushell said. “I think being a public servant is something that is important to me, so that is one of the reasons that that I’m running.”
Prince George’s County Public Schools Board of Education member Pamela Boozer-Strother
Pamela Boozer-Strother first became involved in LGBTQ and reproductive rights advocacy in the late 1980s as part of what was then called the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. During the decade she spent working with NLGJA; she worked towards inclusive workplace policies, fair and accurate news coverage of LGBTQ issues, and domestic partner benefits.
After living in Adams Morgan for years, Boozer-Strother moved to Prince George’s County with her spouse Margaret, where they adopted a child and built a life together. Boozer-Strother first became involved in the school system when her son started attending public school in Prince George’s County, and in 2018 she ran for the Board of Education and won.
“I had an opportunity to make a difference by being visible, and finding other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families and staff — and ultimately, students — and helping to build that network of support,” Boozer-Strother said. “It’s taken some time; I ran for the board in 2018 as an out candidate and I won, and I am thrilled to live in a community that saw that as an asset.”
Boozer-Strother has worked extensively on school construction, educational equity policy, LGBTQ-inclusive curricula and the board’s climate change action plan.
“Of course, I focused in on the relevance of my representation and my skills and background that I could bring to [my platform.] But really, I got into this because of school construction,” Boozer-Strother said. “I’m really proud to say that, as of today, seven projects that serve District 3 students are fully funded.”
Prince George’s County Council candidate Krystal Oriadha
Krystal Oriadha studied business at Howard University before getting an MBA and working at Hewlitt-Packard. After a few years with HP, Oriadha moved back to the DMV area, where she said that “I wanted to use my skill set to help people and make an impact.”
Oriadha has now been a community organizer and advocate for more than 12 years — she worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on human trafficking prevention, reproductive healthcare, domestic violence campaigns and tribal nations issues for about four years before she made her first run for office, for the same seat for which she is running now. Although Oriadha lost that election by 30 votes, she became the new council member’s policy director, which gave her the chance to work on making legislation as a staffer.
“I think I learned that I wanted to be the principal even more, because they had the ability to make deals, cancel what I thought was really good legislation,” Oriadha said. “It’s really different when you’re the person that gets the make that last call — that’s the difference between having a seat at the table and being outside of the room when decisions are being made.”
Oriadha currently serves as the executive director of PG Change Makers, a local nonprofit she co-founded after returning to Prince George’s County to do community work in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Although she was not initially planning to run for office again, Oriadha said that she is doing so at the request of her community.
“I was not planning on running again because it is a lot of work and I never really cared about being elected, but the community is asking me to, so I decided to go ahead and give it another try,” Oriadha said.
Oriadha said that proudly representing all aspects of her identity is a crucial part of her campaign.
“When I first ran, there was a lot of talk about how not to talk about the LGBTQ+ part, because I’m straight presenting. And for me, what was so important is that I made it very clear who I am, and that I didn’t shy away or hide that part of myself, because to me, you’re not breaking the [glass] ceiling if people don’t even know the ceiling existed. I think that we’ve never had an openly elected LGBTQ+ person sit on our County Council before,” Oriadha said.
“I think what this will show is that you can run and be yourself and it won’t cost you anything. I think that’s what is so important about this election.”
Howard County Register of Wills Byron Macfarlane
Howard County Register of Wills Byron Macfarlane has served in the position since 2010 and was the first openly LGBTQ person elected in Howard County.
Along with his involvement in a plethora of state and local groups and organizations and being admitted to the state bar association, Macfarlane gained experience working for multiple prominent lawyers and politicians including County Councilman Guy Guzzone, Circuit Court Judge Richard Bernhardt, state Sen. Edward Kasemeyer and the late-U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.)
During his tenure in office, Macfarlane has made supporting the LGBTQ community an integral facet of his identity as a public official and a fellow citizen.
“Queer kids see the hate coming from the dark corners of our community,” Macfarlane wrote on Twitter. “They need to hear from us — from you — that we love and support every one of them.”
Since being elected, Macfarlane has overseen a number of reforms implemented in the Register’s office, including modernization of its technological aspects and a cut on taxpayer expenditures for antiquated procedures. Modernizing the Register’s office and leading on reform, while also being receptive to his constituents, Macfarlane has said, have been some of his top priorities.
“I’ve proven myself as a reliable and responsive figure in our local government, that I’ve been extremely effective delivering meaningful reform, and that now more than ever our community needs steady, forward-looking leadership they can trust,” Macfarlane told the Blade. “I’m running for re-election because representation matters, because I want to continue serving the public with professionalism, compassion, and fairness, and because I want to continue pushing reforms to make probate faster, fairer and less expensive for Marylanders.”
Editor’s note: Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin, who is openly gay, won re-election on May 10.
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