OCEAN CITY – The Rivendell project seems to have reached the end of its contentious journey this week, with the City Council voting unanimously to accept the favorable recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission to approve the amendments to the project.
The 88-unit Rivendell condominium project, located between 80th and 81st streets on the bayside, has remained a hot topic over the past few months, ever since the building’s five-foot height discrepancy came to light in July. After months of complaints and concerns that the building was higher than was originally planned, Bay Princess residents, neighbors at 81st Street, took matters into their own hands. They gathered building plans, showing Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith that the current building was indeed five feet taller than what the original site plans had called for.
As a result, a stop work order was placed on the building until the issue could be resolved and an amended site plan could be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
In the meantime, the Buccini-Pollin Group, owners of the Rivendell project, along with Tommy Heiderman, former owner of the property and owner of The Hobbit Restaurant, met with neighbors at Bay Princess and Triton’s Trumpet in an effort to make negotiations. The stop work order was also lifted in the interim.
Despite the complaints, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to make a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council to approve the height amendments as well at to approve changes to the dumpster location of the restaurant dumpsters. Last week the Planning and Zoning Commission made another ruling, this time in regards to the air compressors along the side of the restaurant, voting unanimously to make a favorable recommendation to the council regarding the revised site plans.
The journey came to a head this week as the project returned to the council. Smith presented a review of the Planning and Zoning Commission meetings as well as a finding of fact, which showed the revised plans would have no affect on population change, availability of public services, transportation patterns and compatibility of existing and past development.
“We saw very little deviation if any,” Smith said in regards to the shadow tests, maintaining that the additional five feet three inches had little impact on compatibility.
Smith presented the council with two items to be reviewed, the new placement of the dumpsters and the change from eight-foot sidewalks to five-foot sidewalks adjacent to the restaurant. Smith explained that moving the dumpsters and placing them in two parking spaces would be beneficial to the neighbors as would the sidewalk change because it allows for increased landscaping.
“Every time it seems we take a step forward in this project it seems we take another five steps back,” Councilwoman Nancy Howard said, voicing dissatisfaction with the sidewalk change. “I feel like we’ve been nickel and dimed throughout this whole thing and it’s starting to wear a little thin.”
Council President Joe Mitrecic asked, “Have we done anything to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” He added, “Nobody in this room will have to answer to the people in the street than us sitting here.”
“I know of nothing that was malice about this,” Smith responded, maintaining that it was an honest mistake that they hope will not happen again.
Councilman Jay Hancock was not convinced.
“I’m still not sure it’s not going to happen again. I think this whole thing sets a bad precedent,” Hancock said.
The debate seemed to reach a standstill with the report on the roads from City Engineer Terry McGean, who reported that parts of 80th and 81st streets, if not all, would need to be repaved. He also pointed out that although the damage to the Bay Princess and Triton’s Trumpet sidewalks were not caused by Rivendell construction, the sidewalks would need to be replaced when the road is repaved.
Councilman Jim Hall suggested all of the repairs be laid out on the table for review before any decision on the projects revised plans be made.
Councilwoman Mary Knight suggested the Buccini-Pollin Group pay for time and money spent by the city on this issue, which amounts to a total of $6,128.
Howard suggested that the Bucccini-Pollin Group donate something to the town to make up for the troubles.
Hancock agreed the building owner should make a good faith donation to the town.
“The town has been inconvenienced and the integrity of our process has been breached … something substantial needs to come out of this,” he said.
The decision seemed have reached a stalemate when owner Rob Buccini stepped forward and offered to pay for all repairs to the streets and to the sidewalks. Buccini said he would cover all of the costs if they could reach a decision that night and put an end to the on-going headache. He also agreed to pay the $6,128 in costs suggested by Knight.
The council voted six in favor with Hancock in opposition to accept Buccini’s offer, to accept the finding of fact from the Planning and Zoning Commission and to accept the site plan changes.