OCEAN CITY – Following in the footsteps of a controversial project that once sought to replace Ocean City Health & Racquet Club, a new proposed hotel is coming in prepared to address all concerns.
A preliminary conceptual site plan for development of a hotel, Marriot Residence Inn & Suites, at 6100 Seabay Lane came before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday evening. The applicant is Jeff Thaler of Atlantic, Planning, Development & Design, Inc. The owner of the property is Inns of Ocean City, LLC., which owns multiple Marriot facilities.
The four-acre property sits adjacent to the Route 90 Bridge and is located behind Ocean City Tennis Center on the bay. The neighbors to the south are Trader’s Cove residential community. The property’s most recent use was the Ocean City Health & Racquet Club that has been out of operation for some time.
“They are here tonight with a conceptual plan so that you [commission] can give them direction as they proceed with special bayside regulations,” Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith said.
The proposed hotel is in compliance with Ocean City’s Special Bayside Development Regulations that were implemented in 2007. The goal of the bayside development regulations is to allow for taller buildings in the area if the builders compromise by meeting regulations in other areas such as setbacks, parking, shadows and bulk. The hope was that it will provide an incentive for builders to create more diversified buildings that are not the standard five-story condo building.
“To be considered the Bayside District, you have to have 40,000 square feet of upland not including wetland, so we are actually at 80,000 square feet, twice the amount, which allows us to build the eight-story building,” Thaler said.
The hotel is designed to be eight-stories with 128 hotel rooms and 22 suites. The project comes with a required 161 parking spaces but exceeds that with 168 parking spaces with parking on ground level both under the building and surrounding it.
The building is front-end loaded with all views facing the south to avoid hotel guests from having to take in the north view of Route 90 and Ocean City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. Also, tall landscaping surrounds the property to the north along Route 90 to serve as a buffer.
Robert Heron of Atlantic, Planning, Development & Design reviewed the hotel’s design with the commission. With parking on the ground level is a complimentary breakfast area with indoor and outdoor seating. Administration space and hotels rooms are proposed for the second level, hotel rooms from the third level up to the sixth level, a fitness room with an outdoor area and rooms on the seventh level, and an extra-large pool to appease off-season visitors on the eighth floor, as well as a rooftop deck.
There is also an outdoor pool on the western portion of the property with a bay front view and an uncovered outside bar.
“The owners of this hotel stress open space,” Thaler said. “With the excess parking spaces that we had, we could have added another 16 rooms but they wanted more open space.”
The commission voiced similar concerns associated with the property as they are familiar with issues from a former project called Sante that was proposed in 2005 that eventually dissolved.
Sante included a day spa, pharmacy, gym, medical offices and open space for yoga classes among other health-related activities. It would span over all four acres, and consist of 72 condominium units on 17 floors. City officials had several concerns over Sante, such as the impact on Trader’s Cove and traffic. The project repeatedly downsized in floors but never came about.
“We could have come with a larger building but … we all know how controversial this project was in a prior life, so we are trying to keep it as non-controversial as possible,” Thaler said of the Residence Inn. “I think we have so far achieved that.”
Thaler added a meeting will be held with Trader’s Cove property owners, and the plans will be adjusted accordingly to address those concerns.
Commission member Chris Shanahan recalled the vehicular and pedestrian concern involved with the Sante because 61st Street on the bayside is accessed by the southbound lane on Coastal Highway where Route 90 traffic is merging onto the highway, and there is not a traffic light.
“I need to see a study of how we are going to get people from one side of the highway to the other,” commission member Peck Miller said.
Thaler assured traffic and shadow studies will be conducted before final site plan review.
“Ocean City code calls out a shadow cannot be cast out on a neighbor’s property, which would be Trader’s Code residential property in this case. The code does not say anything about roads … it is only their house and outside land,” Thaler pointed out.
The commission officially asked for a traffic study to show how both vehicular and pedestrian traffic will get across Coastal Highway to access to and from the beach, and a shadow study before final site plan approval to which Thaler agreed.
“I applaud you for getting the Trader’s Cove people into the mix,” Shanahan said. “That is one of the smartest things you can do to get them involved because they were very adamant when they were here before.”
According to Thaler, the hotel will return in May for final site plan approval and the hope is to break ground in the summer.
“If you are already in compliance with all of the environmental requirements, you’re golden,” commission member Lauren Taylor said.