County Planners Table New West OC Pharmacy Plan

SNOW HILL – A Rite Aid pharmacy planned for West Ocean
City met a delay last week when the Worcester County Planning Commission tabled
a decision on the site plan.

The proposed pharmacy, at the southeast corner of Route 50
and Keyser Point Rd., engendered an at times contentious discussion between
project planners and commission members, particularly over the look of the
building.

“It’s been a very difficult site in a lot of respects,”
said Mark Cropper, attorney for applicants, Mahmound Zia-Shakeri and W.A.G.,
Inc.

The new, 17,000-square-foot building, would occupy a
currently vacant lot. With such a large building, the site cannot accommodate
the code-required amount of parking. The Worcester County Board of Zoning
Appeals has already granted the project a 20-percent reduction in spaces.

Access and egress were another bone of contention, with
designers originally planning an entrance from Route 50 as well as an exit onto
the highway, which was reduced to an exit only after review by the Maryland
State Highway Administration (SHA). The entrance will be located on Keyser
Point Rd., instead, across from the former Avalon Market building.

With the building, parking and stormwater pond, the site
has been maxed out, according to designers, which reduces the opportunity for
landscaping.

The design of the building was a sticking point for the
planning commission. Most of the members felt that the architecture would be
appropriate for Berlin, but not for the coastal area of the county.

“This has been a big issue,” said commission Chairperson
Carolyn Cummins.

That part of Route 50 is not subject to any official,
county established architectural standards. The site is not in the scenic
corridor plan, nor is there a law giving the planning commission architectural
review authority, Cropper said.

Cummins said the commission had the same issues with the
West Ocean City Applebee’s restaurant, which was changed to a more coastal look
after the commission objected to the standard design.

“I don’t think I’ve gotten as many compliments from the
public as I have on that Applebee’s,” said Cummins.

While that may be true, Cropper said the planning
commission could not require Rite Aid to make the same changes.

The previous planning commission chair, Ed Ellis, called
Applebee’s corporate headquarters, said planning Commissioner H. Costen Gladding
and found out that other designs were available.

“There was no real big building change,” Gladding said.

One county planner said subtle changes in the design could
be possible without a total overhaul.

“It doesn’t seem to take a whole lot to change the façade,
and I think people would welcome it,” said Commissioner Jeanne Lynch.

Cropper said that he did not believe that the commission
had the authority to deny a site plan based on project architecture.

Designers pointed to the local aspects of the design, such
as using brick to cover the company prototype in an effort to blend in with
small town architecture, like that found in Berlin, adding pilasters and
placing awnings over the windows.

“We dressed up the prototype,” said architect Dennis
McGlynn.

The brick, Cummins said, does belong in the Berlin area,
but not the coastal area, which should offer seaside architecture, similar to
the Ocean City Lifesaving Station Museum.

Cummins pointed to a Rite Aid in Maine housed in a coastal
style building, but McGlynn was quick to counter the example.

“That’s an existing historic building they added to,”
McGlynn said.

Cummins agreed, but pushed for something more in the
design.

“I understand your point,” she said. “It’s an attempt to
do something coastal which is what we would expect.”

The commission also suggested minor changes around the
building, such as more landscaping, to soften the look of the building.

While McGlynn contended that the awnings on the building’s
windows did so, Lynch disagreed.

She suggested a porch, to fit in with local buildings, but
McGlynn said there would not be enough space to add one.

“We’re willing to make that cornice line a heavier element
and add awnings,” McGlynn said.

Lynch agreed the concession meant some effort to meet the
planners halfway.

“It is some movement, I grant you,” said Lynch. “It’s all
theater. It’s all dressing a set. You’re making people want to come in a
building. I don’t want to come in this building.”

She added, “You could be anywhere in the whole United States.
We are in Ocean City, Md. We are in Worcester County, Md.”

A motion to approve the site plan failed. The
commissioners did not offer any other motions with different requirements and
voted to table the matter until next month.

Cropper asked the commission to specify why the motion had
not passed.

“This is in my opinion crucial,” he said.

According to Cummins, the commission needs to consult with
Worcester County attorney Ed Hammond, who was not present, before making a
decision.

 

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