OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council overlooked the Planning and Zoning Commission’s favorable recommendation of a parasail business in north Ocean City this week by voting to deny the applicant.
The Planning and Zoning Commission conducted a public hearing last month to consider a parasail business to be operated out of the boat basin located in Ocean City Square on 117th Street Bayside, owned by Peddler Square Inc. The commission approved the request and passed it on to the Mayor and City Council as a favorable recommendation.
Joshua Farr, a certified United States Coast Guard (USCG) Captain, applied to operate a parasail boat no larger than 28 feet in length that would dock in the boat basin, receive its patrons and move down the canal into the bay to conduct its operation. Farr has an extensive background in the water sports business. His family owned a jet ski and parasail rental business formally known as Base Boards Unlimited for about 10 years.
The conditions of the commission’s favorable recommendation of the parasail operation included the approval of only one year to verify its compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood, limited to the applicant, limited to one parasail boat no larger than 28 feet in length, no music, food, or alcoholic beverage provided on the boat, hours of operation dun from 8:30 a.m. for the first trip to leave the dock and the last trip to leave no later than 6 p.m., noise kept to a minimum in the waterway leading to the open bay and abide by the USCG regulations.
Along the surrounding waterways, there is a large amount of residential properties and communities, and property owners attended the public hearing on April 5 and attempted to discourage the commission from allowing the business to run up and down the canal leading into the bay.
Farr’s attorney Pete Cosby explained during that public hearing that the comprehensive plan states that existing commercial development can accommodate more intense usage and Ocean City should promote that to its maximum efficiency in balance with the interest of the people in the neighborhood. Also, Ocean City faces important future challenges. The economy, even more so than in the past, will rely on the resort’s tourism-based industries for it revenue generation. In the past, land development shared this role to some extent. If the town approaches build out, development’s role will be less prominent for this reason the town should concentrate on keeping trends in the tourism industry.
Despite the operation’s benefit to the economy, the Mayor and City Council was more concerned with the nearby residents being impacted by the new business.
Councilwoman Mary Knight made a motion to deny the conditional use of the property, saying she was “a strong component over the sanctity of a neighborhood and there is not a whole lot that we can control in our lives anymore.”
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas agreed with Knight, pointing to the abundance of response in opposition from residents who live along the waterway. She seconded the motion.
Councilman Brent Ashley favored the motion and said “when so many of my neighbors are against something I am going to be against it as well.”
Councilman Joe Hall pointed out that the boat basin allows the usage of other boats with “non-marina activity” or that are not under conditional use.
“You can have accessory boating,” Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith said. “They can come to the boat basin to come to the shopping center … as an accessory use to the shopping center, but not as a commercial operation.”
Joe Hall said that the parasail business would be the proper use of what the property owner of the boat basin pays taxes on.
“It just makes no sense to me why we’re denying this property owner the right to use his property and to lease it,” he said. “I think it is an exaggerated impact of what it would have on these people.”
Joe Hall added that there is nothing stopping the property owner from running his own operation up and down the canal.
“You should be careful of what you’re asking for here,” he warned.
The council voted to deny Farr the conditional use of the property to operate a parasail business with a vote of 6-1, with Joe Hall in opposition.
The following discussion involved the council deliberating the finding of facts of why it denied the conditional use of the property. The council concluded to adopt the finding of facts as, the operation is more than 300 feet from open water, the commercial operation would have to pass through a residential area, it may interfere with residential water activity, there is congestion at the intersecting channels and the noise and nuisance factor it may create in a residential area.
“Folks are going to pay to have a good time,” Council President Jim Hall said. “I have been out on many parasailing boats and it’s fun. That is a quiet residential neighborhood and if I ever got any calls about something this is one.”