Downtown Height Regulations Approved

OCEAN CITY – The recent changes in downtown height limitations resulting from concern for preserving the downtown area were amended further this week at the City Council meeting Monday evening.

Last month the City Council began discussion over the concern for rising heights in the downtown area. In an effort to preserve the historic charm of the downtown area, the council decided to approve height restrictions on new development of the oldest sections of downtown Ocean City.

The downtown area is a section of the town that the council agreed was known for its historic low-rise buildings. The recent development of large-scale projects and the increasing building heights resulted in the approval of the ordinance.

There was still some concern however that the ordinance wasn’t limiting heights enough in certain areas. Councilman Jay Hancock expressed concerns over houses along Baltimore Avenue that would still be overshadowed by the limitations of the ordinance. These areas maintain two to three story homes that would still face problems from looming 5-story buildings.

Although the council agreed with these concerns, they decided to pass the ordinance as written and revisit the height limitations, particularly along Baltimore Avenue, in the future.

This week the council revisited the issue with a second reading of the ordinance and an amendment of the height limitations. Councilman Jay Hancock reiterated his concerns for the Baltimore Avenue section and the goal to “preserve the old historic appearance of Baltimore Avenue.” Councilman Jim Hall said he had taken a good look at the downtown area over the weekend and agreed that the height limitations should be lowered. As a result, he motioned for an amendment to the original ordinance, resulting in a height limitation change from 40 feet to 35 feet, from 3rd street to 15th street.

The amended ordinance now states that from 3rd Street to 15th street the height of buildings should be no more than 35 feet, and no more than 3 stories. The previous ordinance had stated that the area maintain a height limitation of no more than 40 feet and 4 stories.

Councilman Jim Hall said the issue had gone back and forth before and this week they decided to make the change official.

 “There are about five or six old homes that are in the 35-foot range, and we are trying to preserve the old-town feeling in that area.” Hall also said that although town officials are always promoting change, they would still like to preserve the feel of the downtown area. “Even if those houses are torn down, this would allow us to keep that same feel,” he said.