About Joanne Shriner

Staff Writer

Street Performer Issues Likely Main Focus Of Boardwalk Task Force

Spray paint artist Mark Chase, who would like to serve on the new Boardwalk Regulation Task Force, is pictured on the Boardwalk last summer. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – The Town of Ocean City is looking to form a Boardwalk Regulation Task Force that will weigh ongoing issues with street performers on the Boardwalk and make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council about changing local laws.

This week the Mayor and City Council decided to pass forward legislation approving the formation of a task force to study issues regarding Boardwalk regulations.

According to City Manager David Recor, the town’s legal counsel regarding street performers on the Boardwalk is Venable LLP, and its scope of services includes the formation of a task force to study current Boardwalk regulations and make recommendations, as appropriate, in connection with the impact of recent court rulings addressing regulation of the Boardwalk, such as steps that the town has taken to satisfy those court rulings; issues that have arisen as a result of the town’s implementation of those court rulings; the current state of applicable law; and any revisions to the Town Code to address issues relating to the regulation of the Boardwalk.

A draft resolution before the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday afternoon stated, “Ocean City’s Boardwalk is a popular attraction, it is necessary to regulate Boardwalk behavior in order to ensure equal access, public safety and maintenance of a family friendly atmosphere. The laws regulating commerce, performances and noise on the Boardwalk have been the subject of challenges on First Amendment grounds that have resulted in revision of those laws and those revisions in turn have resulted in many issues.”

The Resolution furthers, “the Mayor and City Council are working towards enacting laws regulating conduct on the Boardwalk that will not offend the First Amendment but take into account needs of various constituencies, including the street performers.”

Over the last year, the office of City Solicitor Guy Ayres has conducted about 30 interviews of approximately 30 individuals who were either property owners, store owners or street performers on the Boardwalk.

“As a result of that, it is our recommendation that a task force be formed to conduct public hearings that would be advertised, the public would be involved and the task force would forward a recommendation if any, of any potential changes to ordinances that would affect the street performers on the boardwalk,” Ayres said. “The only recommendation that we have as far as the membership of the task force is no fewer than five members and no more than seven members, and at least one street performer on the task force because they truly know what’s going on up there. From the street performers that we interviewed we thought they had some very good ideas, and I think they would be an integral part of the task force.”

The Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to move the approval of the task force to a legislative session for approval.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Frank Knight approached the council representing the Boardwalk Development Committee of the Ocean City Development Committee requesting a member of the committee serve on the task force.

Boardwalk performer/spray paint artist Mark Chase also came before the Mayor and City Council. Chase initiated a law suit against Ocean City a few years ago and would like to be a member.
“I would like to donate my time to be part of this task force,” Chase said. “I have a lot of valuable information. I will be on the Boardwalk now for six years, so if you guys will have me I would love to be part of it.”

In June 2011, the council passed an ordinance requiring street performers to register at City Hall and pay a nominal fee for the registration. The ordinance also addressed where buskers could perform on the Boardwalk and included language implementing a 30-foot rule for noise associated with the performances.

Almost immediately, the town’s new ordinance was challenged by Chase, who asserted it violated his First Amendment rights. A U.S. District Court judge ultimately sided in large part with Chase on the First Amendment issues. As a result, the federal court ruling allowed street performers and artists to sell or collect money for certain expressive materials but the town prevailed on the location issue, particularly N. Division Street, which provides access for emergency vehicles.

In 2013, a Boardwalk street performer who plays an amplified violin successfully challenged the section of the town’s ordinance regarding noise. A federal judge ruled against the Town of Ocean City in a civil suit that challenged the 30-foot noise ordinance for street performers on the Boardwalk.

Last summer a pole dancer made national news when she repeatedly set up shop on the Boardwalk and collected tips from pedestrians. The recent court ruling prevented the city from being able to limit her shows in any way.


Restaurants Step Up To Challenge After Founder’s Death

SoDel Concepts President Scott Kammerer and Controller Lindsey Barry are surrounded by the company’s new management team. Submitted Photo

FENWICK ISLAND – Following its founder’s death last summer, SoDel Concepts has been focusing on serving appealing food, developing talented employees and continuing to support local communities.

SoDel Concepts lost its founder, Matt Haley in August following a motorcycle accident in India. Haley was on a humanitarian endeavor for six weeks through northwestern India and eventually Nepal where he was going to deliver stoves to the village.

SoDel Concepts President Scott Kammerer and Controller Lindsey Barry sat down this week with The Dispatch in Catch 54’s newly renovated lounge to catch up on the direction of the company.

“As a group, there is all kinds of different ways that we can face a challenge, so we decided to take this time to refocus, redefine our mission statement and core values, redefine who we were as a group, and decided to grow internally and support each other,” Kammerer said. “One of the first things as a group was we set up three goals. We decided we wanted to make beautiful simple food. We wanted to support the people that work with us, and we want to give back to the community that we do business and live in.”

SoDel Concepts is a James Beard Award-wining restaurant group, which includes eight restaurants, a catering company and food truck, that has collectively received over 50 Best of Delaware awards.

The SoDel Concepts restaurants include Fish On Bar & Grill in Lewes, Lupo Di Mare Italian Kitchen and Papa Grande’s Coastal Taqueria in Rehoboth, Matt’s Fish Camp and Bluecoast Seafood Grill & Raw Bar in North Bethany, NorthEast Seafood Kitchen in Ocean View, Catch 54 and Papa Grande’s Coastal Taqueria in Fenwick Island.

Plate Catering and Big Thunder Roadside Kitchen operate to all points on the Delmarva peninsula.

“One of the ways we decided to handle the challenge is we looked within, and said ‘Hey, we can support these guys that we have been working with that are smart and talented. What can we do to help them?” Kammerer said.

An example is Mike Zygmonski, who has worked his way up from a bus boy over the past 10 years to become a certified sommelier. He has been promoted recently to SoDel Concepts’ wine director and has taken on the initiative to revamp all restaurant wine lists.

Ronnie Burkle was NorthEast Seafood Kitchen’s chef and was named Best Chef in Sussex County by Coastal Style Magazine last year. He has been promoted to SoDel Concepts’ corporate chef and now oversees four restaurants and the food truck.

“He is another example of taking a young, successful, and talented guy and expanding his role in the organization,” Kammerer said.

Shannon Colburn was promoted to general manager of Bluecoast Seafood Grill & Raw Bar.

“She was a longtime server since day one and when Matt passed away she called us and said ‘I am ready to take a bigger role. I want to have a say in the company. I want to have a say in what we do, and I want to create a better experience,’” Kammerer said.

The same applies to Catch 54 General Manager Lauren Bohager.

“She is a long-time employee, and assistant manager who made a commitment. She said she believed in what we are doing, and believed in the company and wanted to help it be great,” Kammerer said.

Phil Blush, general manager of Papa Grandes in Fenwick, and Kris Medford, general manager of NorthEast Seafood Kitchen, are also two long-time SoDel Concepts employees that decided to commit even further to the company.

SoDel Concepts instituted a new gardening program and promoted Chris Wertz, who has a degree in horticulture, to design and grow all of the restaurants gardens.

“He works with chefs and plants herbs and peppers that the chefs can use in their dishes all summer,” Kammerer said.

Kammerer recognized Haley’s death left the company with a huge void to fill when it comes to continuing to support local as well as international organizations, which is where several employees stepped up to the plate.

SoDel Concept’s original corporate chef, Doug Ruley, who now serves as vice president, is carrying on the company’s relationship with the James Beard House, among other organizations.

Ruley cooked at an event at James Beard House this week and coming up he will also be participating with Hearts Delight in Washington DC, and will be the honorary chef at a Peninsula Regional Medical Center gala.

“Those are all things that when Matt Haley passed away that Doug rose to the occasion and is representing our company very well,” Kammerer said.

For her part, Comptroller Barry is now spearheading and taken on the role of supporting local organizations, such as Meals on Wheels in Rehoboth.

“Right around the time Matt died as a company we signed on with Meals on Wheels of Rehoboth that cooks 300 meals a day for homebound senior citizens in Rehoboth, Dewey and Lewes,” Kammerer said.

Barry furthered Meals on Wheels in Rehoboth had lost its previous provider, and Haley had expressed an interest in partnering with the organization but never had the opportunity to iron out the details.

“We made sure that we continued with that,” she said. “Matt was the face of the company, so it was important when he died to let everybody know we will continue as a group and remain to be who we are.”

Prior to his death, Haley played a large role with the Freeman Stage, an open air performing arts venue located near Fenwick Island. It is a program of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and presents diverse programming in the genres of dance, live music, theatre and children’s programming.

Kammerer took it upon himself to fill Haley’s seat on the Freeman Stage Board of Directors for the rest of the term as well as on the Governor’s Task Force for Early Education.

Burkle has also filled Haley’s seat on the Delaware Botanic Garden Board of Directors.

“It wouldn’t have been possible for a company of this size with such a big loss if it wasn’t for all these people stepping up,” Kammerer said. “They are all in now. All these people rose to the challenge.”

The company has started many other initiatives in making SoDel Concepts the best it has ever been, such as remodeling Catch 54, Bluecoast, Lupo Di Mare and Matt’s Fish Camp in the past three months.

Additionally, it has developed a new website, www.sodelconcepts.com, and grown its Facebook likes by 5,000 combined. The company hired a new marketing director, Nelia Dolan, who is a long-time Delaware restaurateur.

Monthly, SoDel Concepts puts on 15 wine and cooking demos, and SoDel Film produces a short clip exhibiting all the happenings of the restaurants.

Matt’s Homemade Sodas line has continued to grow with the newest addition of a Blood Orange and Sage flavor that came out for the winter of 2015.

“We bottle it, label it and cap it to serve in the restaurants,” Kammerer said.

The company has also expanded on its nightly specials, happy hour menus and special events.

“We went to every employee and asked what they would like to do in giving back to the community and to create a better experience,” Kammerer said.

Kammerer concluded prior to Haley’s death the company had executed five-, 10- and 15-year long-term plans.

“All those plans are in place and those things won’t change. His [Haley’s vision helped create those plans, so we feel like as employees we are in pretty good shape as a company,” he said.

According to Kammerer, SoDel Concepts is in process of opening a new restaurant location in the beginning of this year in downtown Rehoboth and a new restaurant location in the beginning of 2016 to be located in either mid-town Ocean City or West Ocean City. While SoDel Concepts already consults many restaurants in both Maryland and Delaware, an Ocean City location will be a first restaurant location in Maryland.

“Matt and I were best friends and business partners for over a decade … I am influenced by what he wanted and how he wanted things. I will honor that even after his death. I will honor his passion, his vision and this company. It is a big responsibility but I am stewarding this company into the future, and that’s how I see it,” Kammerer said.




Bayfront Resident Granted Wind Turbine Conditional Use Five Years After Initial Proposal


OCEAN CITY – Five years later, the first ground-mounted monopole base wind turbine is approved for installation in Ocean City.

Last Tuesday evening, the Planning and Zoning Commission held a subsequent public hearing to consider Ocean City resident James Motsko’s request for a Conditional Use in the R-2 Medium Residential District to permit installation of one ground-mounted small wind turbine in the area of 6th Street on the bayside.

In early October, a public hearing was held before the commission regarding the installation of the wind turbine but the hearing was postponed to provide an opportunity for Motsko’s engineer to be in attendance to address noise concerns. At that time, the commission also requested a private noise reading be conducted.

Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith acknowledged Motsko’s request is the first for a monopole base wind turbine within the limits of Ocean City, and he is “the author of bringing wind turbines into Ocean City” as he has been working on this matter since 2009.

Upon Motsko’s request, in 2009 the council passed an ordinance allowing wind turbines in Ocean City based on a Conditional Use permit.

The original ordinance stated, “the base of the tower shall be set back from all adjacent property lines, public right-of-way, and public utility lines a distance equal to 1.1 times the total height. A turbine may be located closer to a property line if the abutting property owner grants appropriate easements.”

An issue arose when Motsko requested to install the wind turbine on the waterline of his property, resulting in approval being needed from the Maryland Department of Environment, and it was discovered the regulatory agency did not grant easements but would grant permission.

The ordinance was then amended to state, “Properties located on open waterfront may locate a turbine closer to the shoreline provided they obtain approval from appropriate regulatory agencies.”

Ocean City’s Code regarding small wind energy systems also includes no specific height limitation, except as may be imposed by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, as long as the total height meets setback requirements; sound produced by the system under normal operating conditions, as measured at the property line, shall not exceed 55 dBA. The sound level may be exceeded during short-term events such as utility outages and/or severe windstorms; and no illumination of the system shall be permitted unless required by the FAA or unless the tower is also used for street or parking lot lighting, or some similar compatible use.

Although there were no public speakers in opposition during the public hearing last week, several emails were submitted stating concerns over the level of noise the small wind turbine would generate.

A series of emails was submitted by Motsko’s neighbor, John Cronin of The Islander Condos, who argued the proposed wind turbine will greatly exceed the noise requirements.

“Town ordinance states that noise levels shall not exceed 55 dBA. Noise levels may exceed 55 dBA under conditions of severe windstorms. A severe windstorm is defined by the National Weather Service as wind speeds of 57 mph and above. The proposed wind turbine exceeds 55 dBA at wind speeds as low as 18 mph, according to data provided by the manufacturer itself. The noise clearly is in violation of the applicable ordinance. There is no question about this,” the email read.

On Nov. 18, Sgt. Mark Paddack of the Ocean City Police Department per request of the commission conducted a noise meter reading of an existing small wind turbine located outside of the corporate limits of Ocean City owned by Monty Lewis on the Isle of Wight Bay.

Motsko and his engineer, Stacey Hart of J. Stacey Hart & Associates, Inc., attended the meter reading and were in attendance for the public hearing.

According to the report, Hart measured an exact distance of 50 feet from the wind turbine to a point which would serve as an imaginary property line as if on Motsko’s property. Paddack was slightly up wind from the turbine during the first test.  Then Paddack moved slightly down wind and to the south 50 feet from the wind turbine.

The NOAA weather monitoring station located at the Ocean City Municipal Airport reported for Nov. 18 wind gusting was 13 to 28 mph. Paddack believed these conditions were exceptional for testing, but the higher level wind gusts caused leaves and tree limbs to create some additional ambient noise in the area.

Paddack conducted a series of test samples of noise emanating from the wind turbine. Based on the readings, Paddack found the wind turbine complied with the noise ordinance during day hours as define by American National Standards institute (ANSI).

The same readings during the night time hours would place the wind turbine in compliance of the noise ordinance as defined by ANSI with the exception of higher wind speed gusts of post 28 mph.

The low tone swishing sound of the three blades at 28 mph winds pushed the max to 59 dbs.  However, at this wind speed level or greater, there is an overall increase in the ambient noise from the wind not just the three blades of the turbine. Therefore, overall noise from higher gusting winds would overshadow some of the swishing sound of the blades.

At this time, Motsko made the suggestion on filling the tower of the wind turbine with foam insulation to reduce the low tone humming sound, which was present during the testing and below the ANSI standard.

Hart added the manufacturer, XZERES, has a feature that prevents the blades from spinning too fast during high winds because they could damage the wind turbine.

“What happens with these wind turbines is if you get a really high wind the system actually shuts down and the blades will lock,” Hart said during the public hearing. “I don’t think you are going to hear the 55 dBA at night. Typically the winds die down at night, and most of the winds come in during the winter time and there is nobody at this building [Islander] in the winter time.”

Motsko furthered data reflects a 15-percent in reduction in noise when the pole is insulated.

The public hearing was closed and the commission began deliberation.

Commission member Peck Miller pointed out if the police department received a noise complaint over the turbine an officer will respond to take a reading and if the reading is 55 dBA or over the turbine becomes non-compliant and the usage will come to a stop.

“If the public has a problem, we have a process to take care of that,” he said.

Miller made a motion to grant the Conditional Use permit based on the wind turbine pole being insulated, and Motsko being a good neighbor by following the regulations set forth by the town.

“I have seen Monty’s pole in action many times, and I think it is a quiet efficient energy use. I would understand the Islander’s concerns over esthetics and the fear of lighting but as Peck stated there is a process for noise and recourse,” Commission member Chris Shanahan said.

Commission member Lauren Taylor added the reality is the Islander is vacant nine months out of the year.

“If we were having a major storm or weather event, it wouldn’t be occupied. As the motion states, it will be an insulated pole and he will have to make sure he is in compliance, I think that is perfectly reasonable,” she said.

The commission voted 5-0 to approve the Conditional Use permit for Motsko to install the ground-mounted small wind turbine with members Pam Buckley and John Staley absent.

Motsko is a well-known name in Ocean City as he and his family members organize the White Marlin Open each August.

Ocean City Surf Club Proposes Adopt-Your-Beach Program For 2015

The Ocean City Surf Club has proposed an Adopt-Your-Beach Program that will be further evaluated next year. Pictured is a sign that is used a similar program in California.

OCEAN CITY – The new year may bring the opportunity to adopt your own beach in Ocean City in exchange for four dedicated clean-ups a year.

During the Dec. 8 Police Commission meeting, Terry Steimer of the Ocean City Surf Club (OCSC) proposed an Adopt-Your-Beach Program.

Steimer submitted the OCSC is a grass roots 501c(3) organization fueled by volunteers focused on protecting and maintaining Ocean City’s beaches, and the Adopt-Your-Beach program has evolved from this idea.

“The reason for this is two-fold. One is I have run the ‘Leave Only Your Footprints’ campaign for the last eight years. It is a great campaign. It took off and did well but after eight years I think it has gotten stale, so this is a new initiative that is good for the town, good for us [OCSC], and it is good for the people who use the beach,” Steimer said. “Two is, I grew up here and I see when families come here they use the same beach over and over. They raise their family on the same beach for generations … because that is the beach they are used to coming to.”

The Adopt-Your-Beach program is a beach clean-up effort utilizing volunteers that would be monitored by an Adopt-Your-Beach Committee. All debris found would be recorded by provided forms, so that data can be collected on the types of trash being found in certain areas of the beach.

For a $200 donation to OCSC, one to three blocks of beach can be adopted by individuals, businesses and groups who will clean their area of the beach at least four times a year. Ideally the group will also conduct additional beach clean-ups as the need arises. This is an opportunity for them to be vested in their beach.

The $200 donation will cover costs for trash bags provided to the “adoptees”, as well as signage that will display the adoptees name and t-shirts.

However, Steimer stressed the program is not an advertising opportunity. It is only for those who are serious about keeping their beach clean.

“We will stress they must be sensitive to the dunes as they are a protected area with no individual allowed on the dunes without the permission of the Mayor and City County. We will coordinate our efforts with the dune clean-up group taking care of the dunes at the present time,” the proposal stated.

Police Commission Chair and Councilman Doug Cymek asked what kind of debris will be targeted for pick-up and during what time periods.

Steimer, who works on the Department of Public Works beach cleaning crew, acknowledged city staff keeps the beach in pristine condition but there is always some kind of trash that gets left behind, such as cigarette butts and bottle caps, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a helping hand. Also the volunteers can clean the beach all year-round as long as it’s on four separate occasions.

Mayor Rick Meehan expressed concern over letting the “Leave Only Your Footprints” campaign go to the wayside.

“That [Leave Only Your Footprints] is a daily reminder to everybody to pick up after themselves, so I don’t think you want to abandon that but to have a volunteer program such as this [Adopt-Your-Beach] could be a good thing,” the mayor said.

Meehan also raised concern over the new program getting lost in the new smoke-free initiative that is likely to hit Ocean City’s beaches this summer. The council is scheduled to consider the specifics of an ordinance eliminating cigarettes from the beach and potentially the Boardwalk after the New Year.

“We are doing the smoke-free beach initiative this year and that in itself is going to require a lot of new signage and education … I don’t want this to get lost in the shuffle,” the mayor said.

Cymek agreed.

“It might be beneficial for you to put it off a year, so it gives you your own thunder kicking this program off. That is what you’re going to need to get people to buy into this,” he said.

Public Works Deputy Director John VanFossen pointed out currently the town cleans the beaches every night during the summer season and as calls are received in the off-season to remove debris.

VanFossen stated it could be beneficial to include the dune area and recommended the program be intertwined with the Dune Committee.

“If they go out in the middle of the summer when the beach is packed with people … I picture them more towards the west side of the beach cleaning closer to the dune. I think they would be best suited to clean the dunes, the heads of the streets, the dune crossings, before they actually get on the beach may be more effective,” he said. “The idea we think is good. It is just initiating it and putting it all together.”

Meehan didn’t want to see the commission over think the proposed initiative.

“I think it is a great volunteer program,” the mayor said, as he recommended Steimer look to the Delmarva Condominium Managers Association for a start in enlisting. “That may be a great way to start this program and get people involved. My only thought is maybe get it a little bit more organized and wait until after the smoke-free initiative because you don’t want to get them confused.”

The commission is looking forward to having Steimer return this summer with a more refined plan and for possible implementation of the Adopt-Your-Beach program in the fall season.



Resort Prefers Highway Focus Be On City-Wide Median Improvements; Concerns Expressed Over ‘Road Diet’ Concept’s Cost, Limited Scope

Medians, such as the one pictured in Atlantic City, were the preferred choice of those put forward by the SHA last week. Submitted Photo

OCEAN CITY – According to city officials, the words “road diet” and its $25 million cost were viewed negatively by and large, resulting in the Transportation Commission forwarding a recommendation to dedicate existing funding to a median barrier for now.

Last week the State Highway Administration came before the Mayor and City Council to present the MD 528 (Coastal Highway) Community Safety and Enhancement Project. The project is referred to as the “road diet.”

Currently, Coastal Highway is an eight-lane roadway consisting of three, 11-foot travel lanes and a 14-foot bus/bike lane with a five-foot sidewalk on each side that contain several obstructions such as utility poles, signs, benches, fire hydrants and trash barrels. The median is 14 feet wide consisting of brick pavers and some plantings that do not discourage mid-block crossings. The median allows for a 10-foot left turn lane at intersections.

The project limit, or “target area”, is from Route 90 to Convention Center Drive on Coastal Highway, which is approximately 1.4 miles. Within this section, there are 10 signalized intersections with two pedestrian crossing intersections on 49th Street and 54th Street. There are 59 entrances with 38 on the southbound side and 21 on the northbound side.

The road diet proposes Coastal Highway be a six-lane roadway consisting of two 11.5-foot travel lanes, a 12-foot outside lane and a five-foot bike lane with 10-foot sidewalks on each side, and the median remain at 14 feet with a 10-foot left turn lane at intersections.

A couple options were presented on how the outside lane should be designated starting with a bus/right turn lane, which would restrict the outside lane to buses and right turning vehicles as it does today.

Option two would make the outside lane a through/right turn lane that would open the outside lane to through traffic.

The presentation asked if the bike lane should be placed against the curb or in a pocket lane between the outside lane and travel lanes.

The presentation also asked how the buses should approach the bus stops with a dedicated bus lane against the curb. Options include a bike table, which is a peninsula that requires bus riders to walk across the bike lane to meet the bus in the bus lane, a pocket lane where bikes would not interact with the bus lane or have the bus pull through the bike lane.

Next the presentation explored different options to deter pedestrians from crossing the median mid-block.

The first concept was to install a decorative fence down the median that could be combined with plantings to soften the look as done in Atlantic City, N.J. or with special lighting be more visible at night.

The next option is to have raised planters in the median such as along Route 40 in Harford County.

Another median treatment could be a landscaped swale that would also increase stormwater management credits as well as help with drainage along the highway.

The final option would be dense plantings in the medians. Currently, dense planting in the median exists near 25th Street but pedestrians have created a “ghost path” for crossing.

The project schedule has the final design being completed by December of 2015 with construction starting in fall of 2016. Currently, the design stage is funded with $2.4 million. Construction will cost at least $25 million but is not funded at this time.

At the conclusion of the presentation, the Mayor and City Council voted to forward the project to the Transportation Commission for further discussion and feedback.

On Wednesday, the Transportation Commission reviewed the progress of a SHA Pedestrian Safety Study released in October 2012 that identified a list of near-term, mid-term and long-term improvements along Coastal Highway to enhance pedestrian safety.

Near-term improvements included reducing the speed limit south of Route 90 to 35 mph, relocate all bus stops to upstream of signalized intersections, install pavement marking with advance crosswalk warnings similar to the markings located at 49th Street and adjusting signal timing by shortening mainline cycle lengths to improve pedestrian safety by allowing more frequent pedestrians phases. All of the near-term improvements have been completed.

The mid-term improvements focus on deterring pedestrians from crossing at mid-block and outside of signalized pedestrian crosswalks by installing a median barrier, installing three pedestrian actuated signals warranted due to pedestrian volumes in the areas of 42nd, 49th and 54th streets. Two of those signals have been installed on 49th and 54th streets. Also it was suggested removing all pedestrian and emergency vehicle median turndowns.

Lt. Scott Harner, who works closely with SHA on the Pedestrian Safety Committee, reviewed the results of what has been completed so far.

“Since 2008, there was a total of 41 pedestrian related crashed in that target area, 11 involved bicycles, 22 were alcohol involved, 27 of them occurred at night with one fatality in May of 2012,” Harner said. “After this study was conducted, SHA began immediately implementing many of those recommendations and … moving into 2013 the results are a 100-percent reduction in fatalities and a 100-percent reduction in pedestrian crashes.”

The question on the table for the committee, Public Works Director Hal Adkins said, is does Ocean City want SHA to spend the current funding available of $2.4 million on accomplishing the mid-term improvements or skip ahead to the final design of the road diet.

“I don’t mean to sound sarcastic but it is reality … I don’t know where they are going to come up with $25 million to do two years’ worth of work in the near future. I just don’t see it,” Adkins said. “My personal opinion, I would much rather see them do median enhancements the full length of Coastal Highway before the road diet project.”

However, Adkins pointed out it is unknown how much of the $2.4 million design budget has been spent, or if the design dollars could be transferable to construction dollars.

Councilwoman Mary Knight recognized how much of a difference the lights on the Christmas trees in the medians made a difference in being able to see better while driving at night and would much rather see median enhancements such as lighting than a $25 million pie in the sky project.

“We have to attack the mid-term, and what we didn’t do. We have to attack the median, the esthetics, the lighting, and just improve safety before we get to the road diet. A term that when I say it feels like a bad word,” Councilman Tony DeLuca said.

DeLuca acknowledged several big name hotels being built in Ocean City as the resort continues to grow and trouble picturing Coastal Hwy. being reduced to six lanes of traffic.

“Looking at the big picture, if I thought we haven’t made significant process I would be looking at this [road diet] as the alternative. I remember before we had median strips on Coastal Highway, and the business community thought the establishment of medians would be the end of business in Ocean City. After it was completed, those same businesses came back to us and said it was the right thing to do, and recognized SHA and their engineers come up with things we really do need to do,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “If we were starting Ocean City from scratch, this [road diet] would be the way to go to create those bike lanes and everything else.”

Elements of the road diet have potential, Councilman Dennis Dare explained, such as wider sidewalks should be moved up as a higher priority instead of a long-term item.

“I don’t like the idea of doing just this one section of Coastal Highway,” Dare said. “That doesn’t make any sense at all. The reason they picked this [target area] was from the statistics in those years [of the study] and they attributed it to the bars. Well now Ropewalk is going into Frescos, so I guess a couple accidents in the next years will qualify that area.”

It is no secret City Engineer Terry McGean is a proponent of the road diet, but he was disappointed in the SHA presentation of the project.

“Ultimately that [road diet] is where we were going to go. It is going to take a lot of selling … but I would hate to see the whole idea just killed. We do need to pursue it to some point. The SHA did a very poor job explaining the benefits of it,” he said. “Through hard work and good luck we haven’t had any [fatalities] but they are going to come again, and we need to do everything we can on the near term to improve but … I think move forward with the mid-term and ask for most of that design money to go towards that project but leave some money so it’s [road diet] not dead.”

As a result of the commission’s discussion, Knight made a motion to recommend to the SHA and full Mayor and City Council for approval to hold off on the road diet and dedicate the design funding towards completing mid-term improvements on all of Coastal Hwy. that include installing a median barrier with lighting, if warranted install the third pedestrian actuated signal at 42nd Street and removal of all pedestrian median turndowns but leave emergency vehicle turndowns. The commission voted unanimously to approve.

Next the commission reviewed the different options of median barriers presented by SHA last week, and favored the example of Atlantic City’s rod iron fence with landscaping

“We need something people can see through. People riding down Coastal Highway they are looking to see where they are going and where places are. Visibility is important for all business owners and everybody,” Meehan said.

The mayor added, if SHA agrees to move forward with a median barrier, additional pedestrian actuated signals should be considered.

“The pedestrian walkways work and there may be other locations where they need to be considered if we are going to proceed with the medians as has been discussed,” he said.

Dare added the entire signal system on Coastal Highway could be re-thought.

“If 27 percent of the pedestrians are crossing not at the intersection, extending the crossing time doesn’t have anything to do with that. They come up and hit the button and expect the seas to part. I don’t think their solution solves it and they need to look at it comprehensively,” he said.

Knight amended the motion to include SHA consider additional pedestrian signals and conduct a comprehensive signal enhancement. The commission voted unanimously to approve.


What Is A “Road Diet”? Ocean City Elected Heard About Concept This Week That Includes New Medians, Dedicated Bike Lanes

Under the “road diet” concept, Coastal Highway from the Route 90 Bridge to the convention center would feature a six-lane roadway with two travel lanes, a dedicated bus lane on the southbound side, a five-foot bike lane and a 10-foot sidewalk in each direction. Rendering courtesy of SHA

OCEAN CITY – The State Highway Administration is proposing a new six-lane Coastal Highway with several options to change the bus/bike lane and add new medians that will deter pedestrians from crossing mid-block.

On Tuesday afternoon, the State Highway Administration (SHA) presented the MD 528, which is Coastal Highway, Community Safety and Enhancement Project.

“We are here today because over the past several years we have been working on a pedestrian safety campaign headed by SHA Assistant District Engineer Dallas Baker … we want to take it one step further and we have been working on what we call a ‘road diet’ for over the past year,” SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer said.

The design team out of the SHA Office of Highway Design in Baltimore was in attendance to make the presentation.

John Webster of SHA Office of Highway Design presented the purpose of the project is for SHA to partner with the Town of Ocean City and local businesses and residences to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists along Coastal Highway, balance pedestrian needs with vehicular needs, develop aesthetic treatments and strengthen local identity.

The need for the project is due to existing sidewalk widths being insufficient for the pedestrian volumes and to bring sidewalks, entrances, pedestrian ramps and signals up to current ADA standards.

Also, many pedestrians currently cross Coastal Highway at undesirable locations. A Pedestrian Safety Study resulted in 27 percent of pedestrians crossing mid-block. There is a high level of pedestrian-related incidents along this section of the highway. From January 2008 to August 2012, there were 47 pedestrian accidents, one of which was fatal.

Currently Coastal Highway is an eight-lane roadway consisting of three, 11-foot travel lanes and a 14-foot bus/bike lane with a five-foot sidewalk on each side that contain several obstructions such as utility poles, signs, benches, fire hydrants and trash barrels. The median is 14 feet wide consisting of brick pavers and some plantings that do not discourage mid-block crossings. The median allows for a 10-foot left turn lane at intersections.

The project limit is from Route 90 to Convention Center Drive on Coastal Highway, which is approximately 1.4 miles. Within this section, there are 10 signalized intersections with two pedestrian crossing intersections on 49th Street and 54th Street. There are 59 entrances with 38 on the southbound side and 21 on the northbound side.

The road diet proposes Coastal Hwy. be a six-lane roadway consisting of two 11.5-foot travel lanes, a 12-foot outside lane and a five-foot bike lane with 10 -foot sidewalks on each side, and the median remain to 14 feet with a 10-foot left turn lane at intersections.

A couple options were presented in how the outside lane should be designated starting with a bus/right turn lane, which would restrict the outside lane to buses and right turning vehicles as it does today.

The pros to this option are it will minimize delays to the bus schedule, reduces the traffic volume adjacent to the bike lane and minimizes through traffic stopped behind buses at bus stops.

The cons to this option are it excludes through traffic reducing capacity of the roadway, and there are potential conflicts between buses and bikes at bus stops.

Option two would make the outside lane a through/right turn lane that would open the outside lane to through traffic.

The pro to this option is there would be no enforcement needed, while the cons are buses may be delayed due to traffic congestion, there would be more traffic adjacent to the bike lane, and a potential conflict between buses and bikes at bus stops. As well as, there could be an increased risk of accidents as buses will be stopping in a through lane.

The presentation asked if the bike lane should be placed against the curb or in a pocket lane between the outside lane and travel lanes.

“Some feel with the younger bike riders they prefer to have them toward the outside and away from the heavy traffic,” Webster said. “Whereas typically SHA uses more of a pocket lane because experienced riders like to go faster and not be interrupted with the right turn of traffic.”

The presentation also asked how the buses should approach the bus stops with a dedicated bus lane against the curb. Options include a bike table, which is a peninsula that provides bus riders to walk across the bike lane to meet the bus in the bus lane, a pocket lane where bikes would not interact with the bus lane or have the bus pull through the bike lane.

Next the presentation explored different options in how to deter pedestrians from crossing the median mid-block.

The first concept was to install a decorative fence down the median that could be combined with plantings to soften the look as done in Atlantic City, N.J. or with special lighting be more visible at night.

The pros to decorative fencing is it is the most effective method to discourage pedestrians from crossing the median, but the con is if a pedestrian does choose to cross at mid-block they become trapped, as well as it creates a “caged effect” for motorists.

The next option is to have raised planters in the median such as along Route 40 in Harford County. Raised planters can also be decorative and create a boulevard effect while creating additional stormwater management credits but would have to be fairly tall to prevent pedestrians from crossing that would obstruct the view of the other side of the highway.

Another median treatment could be a landscaped swale that would also increase stormwater management credits as well as help with drainage along the highway. However, existing landscape swales have not discouraged pedestrians from mid-block crossings further south on the highway.

The final option would be dense plantings in the medians. Currently, dense planting in the median exists near 25th Street but pedestrians have created a “ghost path” for crossing.

The presentation went on to review existing emergency access points in the median and asked if those should be retained or relocated. Also, it reviewed different stormwater management options such as using porous pavement for the sidewalks. Design challenges when it comes to the storm drain system and existing utilities were also discussed.

Webster acknowledged what is being proposed is a large project and suggested the town create a task force to provide feedback.

The next steps are a public meeting will take place in January or February for feedback. The preliminary design is estimated to be completed by February and the design team would return to the Mayor and City Council by spring to present the design.

The project schedule has the final design being completed by December of 2015 with construction starting in fall of 2016. SHA is estimating it would take two seasons to complete construction. However, currently the project is only funded for design only.

According to Webster, the total budget for the project would come to about $15 million to $25 million depending on what options are chosen.

As far as for preliminary thoughts, Mayor Rick Meehan asserted the median needs to be transparent.

“People are here on vacation, not on I-95 and they need to be able to see through to what is on the other side of the road. Otherwise, you will have a concern from the local businesses,” the mayor said. “You have done a lot of work and the appropriate thing to do is to forward this to the appropriate committees, and also go to the public because you don’t want to get too far with too much when the dollars are so important. There are a lot of expenditures that can be made on that highway to improve it. Let’s make sure to look to those that are feasible and possible to have a short range and long range effect.”

Councilman Dennis Dare, a former city manager, has followed the concept of a road diet for the past several years and was impressed with both the bike table and median swale.

“A pocket bike lane, I don’t know how well that would work in Ocean City. There is an ongoing problem we have now with the buses going over to the curb and the bikes being blocked … so the bike table is appealing,” Dare said. “The median swale would address storm drainage. When SHA designed the original project, the road is elevated and not crowned so everything flows towards the bay. Effectively the median becomes a dam because draining Ocean City is like trying to drain a pool table. There are eight pockets but it is not downhill to any of them.”

Dare furthered median lighting with any option is important.

Dare made a motion to forward the proposed project and all its options to the newly formed Transportation Committee to discuss and provide feedback. The council voted unanimously to approve

Boardwalk Military Banners To Return Next Summer

The Ocean City Mayor and Council unanimously supported the return next summer of the Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program. Some of the banners are shown above at a recent Ocean City Elks Lodge ceremony where they were presented to family members. Submitted Photo

OCEAN CITY – Ocean City will continue to honor its local home town heroes next summer through a military banner program.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pat Riordan of the OC Elks Lodge Veterans Committee requested of the Mayor and City Council permission to continue the Ocean City Elks Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program in 2015.

The program was created for the community of Ocean City to honor and recognize active duty military personnel that reside in the county. Banners display the official military photo of the service person, as well as his or her name, rank and branch of the Unites States Armed Forces.

The banners are placed on 20 light pole locations on the concrete boardwalk easterly bump outs from Ripley’s Believe It or Not to 4th Street from Springfest in May to Sunfest in September.

To qualify for the Military Banner Program, the honoree has to be an active duty member of the United States Armed Forces and a resident of Worcester County with priority given to active duty military members currently residing in Ocean City.

According to Rioradan, this year’s program featured three Marines, two members from the Air Force, six from the Navy, eight from the Army and one from the Army National Guard,

“We were concerned that we had no Coast Guard people represented because we have a station here in town, but it turned out none of the 32 people stationed there met the requirements of local residency,” he said.

The OC Elks Lodge Veteran’s Committee has identified nine new active duty personnel with a goal to reach 20.

“I don’t think we are going to have a problem meeting that number, but we are asking for everybody’s assistance in identifying active duty military from Worcester County to meet the guidelines,” he said.

Once the banners were removed following Sunfest, a presentation ceremony was held on Oct. 18.

“The program was a very big success … but it [presentation ceremony] was the best part of the program for the year,” Riordan said.

The banner design and printing costs are paid by sponsoring citizens, fraternal organizations and area businesses. However, Riordan asked Public Works personnel to install and remove banners and brackets as needed.

“The banners held up well. We didn’t have any hurricanes, which we were thankful for,” Riordan said. “The only expense to Ocean City would be from the Public Works Department to help put them up for liability reasons.”

Council Secretary Mark Knight enjoyed the presentation ceremony in October at the Elks Lodge.

“I thought the event was really special as evidence by the number of family members that attended. I don’t want that to outdo the fact that those banners were up there every single day and so many people commented on them,” Knight said, as she made a motion to approve the program again for 2015.

The council voted unanimously to approve the banner program for 2015.

“This was one of those programs that were outstanding and well recognized as a tribute to those who serve our country. I get a lot of complaints about just about everything but not about this program. This was something that everybody felt good about,” Mayor Rick Meehan said.

Applications can be mailed to the Ocean City Elks Lodge #2645 and are accepted on an ongoing basis. Banners are raised in the order that the application was received. Applications must include an official military photo of the honoree, verification of military status and proof of residency.

OC Noise Ordinance Tweaks Sought By Entertainment Venues; Current Law’s Fairness Questioned

Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – The restaurant and bar industry is asking for the town’s noise ordinance to be tweaked as a result of the Board of License Commissioners becoming more stringent over violations.

Seacrets owner Leighton Moore came before the Police Commission on Monday morning to recommend changes to the town’s noise ordinance.

Currently, the town’s law regarding noise emanating from dancehalls and nightclubs states, “…no noise emanates from such establishment which is in excess of 65 dB(A) in the daytime hours and 55 dB(A) in the nighttime hours at the adjoining property line or is plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from the establishment; and each day any such dancehall, nightclub or other business, as aforesaid, shall be operated, maintained or carried on in violation of this division shall constitute a separate offense.”

Moore asserted the noise meter reading should be taken from the complainant’s property line, not 50 feet from the business’s property line.

“Right now, if somebody calls in and they are three blocks away, I don’t know if they really heard anything, or heard music from cars on the street,” Moore said.

Moore used the example of Warren’s Mobile Home Park that is the adjoining neighboring community to the north of Seacrets.

“Let’s say the mobile home park calls in. I think it [meter reading] should be taken and ascertained as to the level that they are hearing, not 50 feet from my property line,” he said. “It would be fair if they do get a meter reading, and it is longer than 30 seconds that they warn the establishment that it is indeed in violation, and the establishment has 20 minutes to secure.”

Moore also suggested after three warnings in a calendar year a violation is submitted each time after.

“Winds do change and sometimes in the heat of the battle to make a living you don’t realize it. That wind could be coming from the east and be blowing out into the bay, but if the wind changes and comes from the south the noise will be hitting the mobile home park and we don’t even realize it,” Moore said. “The way it [ordinance] is written somebody could really do damage to the entertainment outside venues or inside venues for that matter. I would like to just see it addressed, and if necessary make it so it could not be arbitrary.”

According to Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Capt. Kevin Kirstein, the department does not receive many complaints over Seacrets but this past summer season there were repeating issues with a few locations downtown.

Moore came before the commission speaking on behalf of a number of licensees, as noise complaints are being viewed with serious consideration by the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners, an appointed body that grants alcohol licenses and hears any type of violation of the licenses once issued. During recent noise violations, the board has shown a proclivity for acting with a heavy hand, particularly for repeat offenders, and has also been hesitant to issue entertainment privileges when neighbors express early concerns.

“The Board of License Commissioners is unmerciful. They don’t want to hear it,” Moore said. “They are now changing what they are giving as far as the license and the ability in what you can do with music and sound because of the transgressions of one or two establishments. I don’t want to see our industry hampered anymore by different changes in attitude that aren’t justified.”

Kirstein explained the department’s noise enforcement unit also follows the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that allows for more flexibility then the ordinance when it comes to noise.

“The law does say 50 feet, but I know the guys take it upon themselves ordinarily to double that distance before they make an enforcement action,” he said. “If we are going to do it by ear, we require the officers to be able to identify the song or the words to include in the report … noise meters are very difficult to use in this town but we try to use them for commercial properties.”

Kirstein furthered the department does not notify the Board of License Commissioners over a noise complaint, only when there is a violation written.

“It is not unusual for us to get a noise complaint and the complainant wants to remain anonymous but Communications does a pretty good job in finding out where they are located, whether it is hotel or a neighborhood,” he said.

Mayor Rick Meehan questioned if the police department’s practice should become policy.

“I am concerned and always have been over anonymous calls, or at least finding out where they come from so that they can take the reading. It seems arbitrary and one sided. I think we all remember we did have a person in town who would do these kinds of things to cause problems for the businesses, and that is just not right,” Meehan said.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres responded anonymous calls are made by those who are afraid of retribution. He added the purpose of the ordinance is to force property owners to keep the noise level confined to their establishments.

“The way this is worded [Moore’s recommendation] it doesn’t make a difference how much noise comes off the property, as long as it doesn’t break the level from where ever they are complaining from,” Ayres said.

Moore persisted an issue arises when nobody complains around his property but a complaint is received from a distance.

“If somebody complains from two blocks away, I would think the noise level would be over 55 dB(A) at that location, not at my location,” he said.

Brett Wolf of the Noise Board interjected the board has dealt with incidents when noise complaints would be received from Baltimore.

“They would just call to complain because they were trying to prove a point against a specific property … so if you wanted to create a problem for a business, you could call every night and report noise, and the police have to respond and eventually will find a noise violation regardless of how diligent that business owner is,” he said.

Police Commission Chair Councilman Doug Cymek, who previously served on the Noise Board, agreed with Moore’s recommendation to take meter readings from the origin of the complaint.

“You have raised some good points, and I support you on a couple of them … I think it warrants some tweaking of the ordinance. We will probably need to sit down and talk with the police department and the head of the noise unit that is out there on the front line taking the readings. I think you will feel a little bit more comfortable,’ he said.

Meehan added suggested letting the commercial industry in on the SOP to ease concerns associated with the Board of License Commissioners issuing license suspensions or fines as a result of the noise violation.

“That is what puts the businesses in jeopardy, and sometimes they aren’t aware of the problem until after the fact,” he said. “I think 99 percent of licensees comply and play by the rules, and the Board of License Commissioners is trying to do the right thing to make sure they handle things properly but we need to make sure whatever is written in here is what we are doing.”

Councilman Dennis Dare made a motion for the police department to report back to the commission at the next meeting on Jan. 12 with the appropriate personnel in attendance to propose any appropriations of the ordinance form.

“The SOP isn’t readily available to a lot of people, and maybe there are some things in the SOP that would be more appropriate in the ordinance,” he said.

Dare suggested having the procedure of what is reported to the Board of License Commissioners reviewed as well.

“I have had complaints from license holders over complaints being submitted as opposed to violations, and if when warnings are given are they reported,” Dare said.

Dare concluded he also wanted the department to consider always having a meter reading conducted if a violation is being submitted.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the motion.




170-Room Hyatt Hotel Planned For Ocean City; Planning Comm. Approves After Parking Debate

A rendering of the proposed project between Baltimore Avenue at 16th Street and the Boardwalk. Rendering by Fisher Architecture

OCEAN CITY – At last night’s Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, it was learned one of the oldest motels in downtown Ocean City will come down to make room for another big name brand hotel.

On Tuesday evening, the Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed a site plan for a proposed Hyatt Place Hotel complex to be located on the east and west side of Baltimore Ave. on 16th Street where the Seascape Motel currently stands. The Seascape Motel is a family-owned operation. The applicant of the new project is Tom Bennett, managing member of Seascape Motel, LLC.

The Seascape Motel dates back to the 1950s and was one of the first motels built in Ocean City. It will be replaced with a 105-guestroom Hyatt Place Hotel with four employee housing units, two bridal prep rooms, associated retail area, conference area and a restaurant on the east side of Baltimore Ave. and the ocean. Across Baltimore Ave., the west building will consist of 65 hotel guestrooms with a restaurant.

Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith explained the large scale project would be built by the town’s code “height-by-right” clause, which allows the number of stories to be determined by square footage. The Seascape property contains up to 70,000 square feet, which allows for an eight-story building, 80 feet in height.

The property is also grandfathered into the town’s code and enjoys the right of nonconformity when it comes to density and parking requirements. The project also includes 12 Development Transfer Rights (DTRs) to allow for 12 additional units.

“They had the ability to have 93 units, so they are going to build 105 units. They have one apartment in the existing building and in exchange they receive two hotel rooms. The DTRs would be required as part of the approval of the site plan,” Smith said. “The four, two-bedroom employee apartments are considered as an accessory to the hotel and do not count as density against the project. They will be deed-restricted as accessory use only, and not for rental purposes.”

The Seascape Motel has accumulated parking over time, and currently has the motel parking lot on the east side of Baltimore Ave. as well as two other smaller lots on the west side between Baltimore and Philadelphia avenues.

As proposed, the project would provide a total of 113 parking spaces with 61 spaces under the east building and 52 spaces under the west building. A total 170 rooms are proposed, which without the project’s nonconformity status would make it deficient by about 70 spaces including parking for the apartments, conference area, retail and restaurants. That does not include employee parking.

Commission member Lauren Taylor pointed out between parking for the entire project and employee parking the project has to be deficient by at least 100 spaces.

“There is already no parking there in the summer,” she said. “Additional parking has to be part of this project.”

According to Smith, the family also owns a parking lot on the west side of Baltimore Ave. and 15th Street that provides about 48 parking spaces but the proposal does not commit the lot to the project.

“The property does enjoy nonconformity and although that may discomfort some of you, they have that right,” said attorney Hugh Cropper said, representing the applicant. “The Planning Commission cannot go back and change that code … legally we do not need a parking waiver.”

Cropper explained the separate parking lot on 15th Street is owned by the same family but a different LLC.

“It may be available for a practical matter of employee parking or overflow parking but it is not going to be part of the project,” he said.

While the commission cannot override the code, members are still responsible for ensuring the health, welfare and safety of the community, commission member Peck Miller stated.

“It is our job to make sure the neighborhoods don’t get stressed, that its safe, and we take care of the surrounding community, and I don’t feel this meets that test at all,” Miller said. “We are redeveloping Ocean City, and we should look at the areas in this town … you are not being a good neighbor to do this kind of project to this scale.”

Cropper responded the commission’s mandate of ensuring health, welfare and safety does not give it the power to overrule the law.

“They have not even utilized all of their nonconformity. As an absolute legal matter, they will be less non-conforming at the end of the day then they are now,” he said. “It is beyond your authority, beyond your job, to rewrite the code. You are not recognizing a legally existing nonconformity.”

Taylor, whose family redeveloped the former Santa Maria Motel to the Seascape’s south into a Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, persisted the lack of parking is not only a bad business decision, but will cause a negative impact on the resort.

“I will tell you most people bring more than one car when they come, and the front desk will have nothing but people standing there screaming because they can’t find a place to park. When we redeveloped, we did not use our nonconformity because we wanted to bring it up to current code wanting our guests to be happy by having a place to park,” she said. “You will be charging people $300 a night and they will have nowhere to park. They are not going to want to come back to Ocean City.”

Commission member Palmer Gillis furthered the hotel guests will start to impede on other businesses’ parking lots and neighborhood streets.

“The issue is a how extreme it is,” he said. “As a business person, I always try to exceed the parking code … you are pushing the envelope too far. There is legality and reality. The legality is you meet the code. The reality is you are putting stress on the neighborhood and it will not serve the project as well as it should.”

The parking deficiency for the hotel rooms alone is a problem, Commission member Joel Brous argued, as he asked for some kind of compromise.

Cropper asked for a recess to discuss the issue with the family. Just a few minutes later, he returned before the commission, offering the lot on 15th Street to be used as part of the Hyatt Place Hotel project.

“The family respects your concerns, and if we can get an approval tonight they will deed-restrict the other property and tie it into this project,” Cropper said. “With the additional parking lot, the project would become less deficient by about 30 parking spaces.”

Miller recommended the additional lot be valeted to allow for stacked and compact parking that would lessen the deficiency even further. He made a motion to approve the site plan contingent upon the parking lot on 15th Street be covenant with the project, DTRs be included, the four apartments be deeded as employee housing only and the bridal prep rooms not be rental units.

The commission voted 6-0 to approve with Chair Pam Buckley absent.

According to Keith Fisher of Fisher Architecture, who designed the project, demolition of the Seascape Motel is planned for mid-January, and the east building is estimated to be complete by the 2016 summer season.

The demolition will include several businesses on the Boardwalk side of the existing motel, including Peppers Tavern, a mainstay on the Boardwalk for decades that was formerly known as the Tavern by the Sea. Its’ fate as well as other businesses on the Boardwalk side of the property are unclear at this point but they will be razed as part of the property redevelopment.





Major Hotel Addition Planned For Ocean City; 15-Story Structure Would Be Connected To Existing Quality Inn

Rendering by Becker Morgan

OCEAN CITY – A new oceanfront 15-story hotel proposed for Ocean City received formal site plan approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission last week.

Last Tuesday evening the Planning and Zoning Commission held an informal discussion regarding the Planned Overlay District to include a 15-story hotel, which will have 101 units. The site of the proposed hotel in the Planned Overlay District is on the south side of 34th Street on the ocean.

The design of the new hotel was presented by Jack Mumford of Becker Morgan Group. The applicant is OC Hotel Holdings, LLC.

Currently, the Quality Inn & Suites Beach Front stands on the north side of 33rd Street. The new hotel will be built on a vacant lot to the north of the Quality Inn and as proposed will be connected to the Quality Inn to share amenities.

Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith explained existing projects that are similar to what is being proposed are the Hilton located on 32nd Street and the ocean, the Holiday Inn on 17th Street and the ocean and the Gateway Grand on 48th Street and the ocean, which were also designed by Becker Morgan Group.

According to Ocean City Code, construction in the Planned Overlay District must meet a minimum of 90,000 square feet of lot area located in the permitted zoning district.

“There is something unique about it that it offers something better than the ‘factory version’ that would have more land coverage, so you are getting more open space,” Smith said.

At first, a 12-story building was designed to go along with Ocean City Code’s “height-by-right” regulation, Mumford explained, but the hotel ended up with only a few units facing the ocean while most faced the street on the north side, elevated parking and an elevated pool.

“We decided to come back with a smaller foot print with 15 stories rather than 12, so it is about 30 feet taller than what would be allowed with height-by-right but we were able to get all of the units oceanfront,” Mumford said. “We were also able to keep a vast majority of the site open, so we have more landscaping and light and air for the neighborhood.”

Mumford added the plan also includes more than what will be required for parking.

“The new hotel will be attached to the existing Quality Inn. It may function as two different brands with a shared front desk, but basically the amenities of the existing Quality Inn will be shared,” Mumford said. “We are adding a new pool on the oceanfront, and we enlarged the trash collection area but they will still work together.”

Mumford furthered, as done with the Hilton, Holiday Inn and Gateway Grand they are stepping the building, so it absorbs its own shadow as it gets taller. According to Ocean City Code, a shadow study was conducted on Sept. 7 at 10 a.m.

“We managed the shadows so there is no shadows cast across the street on neighbors or onto the beach past the dune line,” Mumford said.

In the near future, a formal site plan will come before the commission for review, attorney Joe Moore stated, who is representing the applicant.

“It really strikes you as a beautiful building,” he said.

Commission member Palmer Gillis and Commission Chair Pam Buckley both agreed.

“It is very functional with great landscaping,” Commission member Lauren Taylor said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously that as a result of a preliminary discussion the proposed site plan appears to be satisfactory. A formal site plan review will come before the commission in the future for a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council for approval.