After owning the property at 84 Kent St. for nearly 100 years, Rehoboth Beach auctioned off the lot April 10 for $1.07 million.
The building has been vacant for years, but it had been the longtime home to the Kiwanis Club and Boy Scout Troop 85. Scout posters were still hanging on auction day.
The city embarked on selling the property three years ago, when its generally vacant status was brought to light at the beginning of the city’s ongoing nativity scene saga. The foam creche figures for the nativity scene were being stored at 84 Kent St. because the Kiwanis Club had been responsible for setting them up at the Bandstand for many years. The agenda for the commissioner meeting this Friday, April 16, calls for a possible settlement agreement in the lawsuit filed by the Knights of Columbus against the city.
The team from Emmert Auction Associates conducted the auction. Prior to the auction, Carol Emmert and Ellie Wakefield sat at the sign-in table providing bidding tags, while owner Butch Emmert, son Will Emmert and Herb Kenton entertained questions from prospective bidders. During the auction, Butch explained the rules and prodded bidders to go higher, while Will was on the phone with the eventual high bidder and Kenton did the calling.
Butch did his best to sell the property. This is a lot six blocks from the beach, in the hottest market on the East Coast, he said. Homes have appreciated 35 percent since 2018, he said.
Kenton began the auction at $2 million, but it quickly went to $950,000 before slowly climbing its way to the winning price. There were three dozen people in attendance, but most of them watched while Will’s bidder and two other bidders went back and forth in $10,000 increments.
As the auction slowed, Butch pushed bidders, saying, “Tomorrow you’ll wish you had placed a bid.”
A number of city representatives were in attendance – Mayor Stan Mills, Commissioners Richard Byrne, Edward Chrzanowski and Patrick Gossett, City Manager Sharon Lynn, City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas, City Building Inspector Matt Janis and City Project Coordinator Evan Miller.
Lynn said she was pleased the city would be getting the $1 million.
Mills said he’ll wait to see what Lynn suggests before the commissioners take any action on how to spend this one-time revenue bonus.
“I’m sure each commissioner has a little pet project,” said Mills, adding he thought the winning bidder got a good deal.
In the meetings before commissioners agreed to sell the property, there was a discussion about possibly turning the building into housing for summer employees. Neighboring property owners did not like that idea. Mills said he thinks the neighbors will be much happier with this outcome.
After the auction, Butch said the winning bidders were a nice couple from Cherry Hill, N.J., who already own a house in town on Oak Avenue.
“Now they’ve got two in town,” he said.
As part of the rules, the high bidder was required to provide 10 percent of the winning bid the day of the auction. The closing date on the sale was extended from 30 days to 120 days to allow time for the city to provide a clean title to the property. Similar to what happened with the new city hall complex on Rehoboth Avenue, the city doesn’t have a deed for the property. It was explained that the city has been in control of the property since at least the 1940s. For the city hall property, Delaware’s Court of Chancery granted the clean title.
Prior to the bidding, Emmert said cleaning up a title was a rather common thing to do.