City Planners Tackle Changes To Bayside Projects

OCEAN CITY – The regulations for bayside development that are aiming to bring better and more diversified buildings to the area faced further changes and discussion this week as the Planning and Zoning Commission considered further changes.

The Planning and Zoning Commission met with Jesse Houston, director of Planning and Community Development, this week to discuss the changes that needed to be made to the height-by-right regulations to get the ordinance passed.

The goal of the bayside development regulations has been to allow for taller buildings in the area if the builders compromised by meeting regulations in other areas such as setbacks, parking, shadows and bulk. The hope is that it would provide an incentive for builders to create more diversified buildings that are not the standard five-story condo buildings, which were built routinely during the most recent condominium craze.

The regulations will allow for a property of at least 40,000 square feet to be able to use the regulations to build as high as eight stories.

Last week Houston met with the City Council to present changes in the proposal and to get their input before bringing the proposal back to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The issues addressed were roof pitch, density, off-street parking and design review.

This week Houston brought these issues before the Planning and Zoning Commission for their opinions and considerations. The off-street parking regulation was one issue that faced discussion and change. The draft ordinance currently requires a 30-percent reduction in off-street parking for commercial use in a mixed-use project. The question arose as to whether this was too much of a reduction with Houston pointing out that the base requirements for commercial off-street parking had already been reduced. The commission decided that 20 percent would be a better number for the reduction.

Off-street parking brought about further concerns as Houston suggested the city better define the term “mixed-use” project. Houston explained two calculations that would regulate commercial use and require a percentage of the building to be dedicated to commercial use.

“Is it onerous to the builder to do this?,” Peck Miller asked with regard to the requirements, voicing concern that the regulations were becoming too strict and may deter builders instead of attracting them.

“I just want to make sure that we’re not creating something that people don’t want to do,” he said.

The commission agreed that setting too many boundaries would clash with the goal of providing incentives for builders to build within these regulations, with Commission member Joel Brous pointing out that the town needs to be careful not to create too many obstacles for builders.

It was decided that although this is something that should be considered across the board for zoning, it is not concept that needs to be changed within this specific ordinance.

The concern for too many obstacles and regulations continued as the commission considered the required density reduction of 25 percent, agreeing that this was also something members did not want to make specific to this ordinance.

“It goes with the same problems with the commercial issue,” Commission member Pamela Buckley said.

Everyone agreed that the density reduction was not appealing from a builder’s perspective.

The commission decided once again that it was a zoning issue and not an issue pertinent to the ordinance at this time.

The last issue that the commission voiced objections to was the requirement for a three-dimensional, or computer generated, model of the structure to be presented at the final site plan approval.

“It’s just not economically feasible,” Miller said.

Commission member Lauren Taylor agreed that it is too expensive and time consuming to produce those types of models.

The commission agreed that for Planned Overlay District projects, such as the Rivendell and Gateway, a three-dimensional model makes sense, but for the types of projects being addressed by this ordinance it just was not appropriate, they said.

The commission agreed that the point of the regulations was to control the issues that often arise when the plans and the final product do not match up. It is their hope that the regulations set will prevent future problems and provide for buildings that fit with the area and the neighboring buildings.