OCEAN CITY – A new Goose Creek convenience store, featuring a Subway restaurant, is working its way into the 52nd Street neighborhood, raising concerns among neighboring properties.
The Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday reviewed a proposed site plan and conducted a public hearing regarding conditional uses for the new convenience store and expansion of existing fuel service facilities on 52nd Street, currently known as Andersons Exxon Service Station and Towing.
The property is located between Seacrets and Macky’s Bayside Bar and Grill. Warrens Park, a residential community, and Candy Kitchen are its immediate neighbors as well as a parcel to the rear with three mobile homes.
The applicant, Cato INC, is proposing to transform Andersons into a Goose Creek convenience store with a Subway restaurant attached. Andersons service and towing center will be demolished and the new building will be built directly behind it on the back side of the property. There are currently four fuel pumps that service eight vehicles and the proposal is to add four more.
During the public hearing, project architect Keith Iott presented the commission with the rendering of the proposed changes to the property and the commission questioned him with their concerns, the first being the installation of sidewalks on 52nd Street.
Iott explained that sidewalks were not included in the design because there are currently no sidewalks 52nd Street and the installation would become difficult due to a new storm water management infiltration system being placed to redirect any spills from the fuel station pad.
The commission pushed the idea that sidewalks would be a nice addition to the street since the project will increase foot traffic in that area as well as vehicular traffic.
“If it is the desire of the commission to have a sidewalk there, we could rework the storm water management accordingly,” Iott said.
While on the subject of an increase in vehicular traffic, Commission member Peck Miller pointed out that an addition of a second exit/entrance on Coastal Highway would alleviate traffic from 52nd Street. The same configuration was done to the Wine Rack on 85th Street.
“The key here is to minimize the congestion on 52nd Street,” Miller said.
Attorney Pete Cosby, representing Warrens Park, questioned applicant Michael Abercrombie, who owns 19 other convenience stores, regarding hours of operation.
“I think food service is what people want, and I think there is a market there for Subway subs,” Abercrombie said. “I would like the opportunity to stay open 24-7.”
Chairperson Pam Buckley interjected, saying, “Obviously, we are not going to allow 500 people to congregate there and buy Subway subs at 5 a.m. That will not happen.”
Warrens Park Board of Directors member Gary Shockley addressed the community’s concerns regarding increased traffic on 52nd Street where it is already congested and the noise pollution coming from the operation.
“We don’t think this is going to be a good thing for us with this new operation,” Shockley said. “We have done very well with Mr. Anderson because they closed at 2 [a.m.] and it isn’t a Subway or hang around all day long. My thought is you all need to really consider the width of the street, that is where the problem is going to be, and the operation late at night.”
The new building is designed to include outdoor dining, raising concerns as well.
“Outdoor dining after a certain hour is not something I think anybody wants to see there because you are going to have the next place to hang out,” Miller said.
Abercrombie responded that the last thing he wants to see is 100 people in his parking lot causing trouble but was hesitant to say he will not allow dining after a certain hour.
“All we want to do is serve food and go,” he said.
Cosby suggested the commission disapprove the addition of fuel pumps and have the new building pushed back to the utmost western property line to relieve congestion and reduce vehicular traffic.
“I think you are putting a 10-pound sack in a five-pound lot,” he said.
Once the public hearing was closed, the commission members shared their opinions.
“This is already a burden site, and adding more is going to burden it even more,” member Lauren Taylor said. “Adding more cars to this site on that street, with more delivery trucks, and everything else is just an overuse of the site.”
Miller said he wanted to view a design that would include sidewalks on 52nd Street, a second exit/entrance on Coastal Hwy. as well as having the entrance/exit on 52nd Street become an exit only.
“I think there is a way to make it work … there is a lot of give and take but there is a way to make it better for everybody,” Commission member Joel Brous.
Deliberation will continue following a response from SHA on a re-configuration of the property’s exit and entrances, as well as having the site plan re-designed according to the commission’s recommendations.
“We just want this to be a good project and I think everyone does too for the neighborhood,” Buckley said.