OC Comfort Station Proposal Sparks Concerns

OCEAN CITY – A proposal for an additional Boardwalk comfort station before the City Council on Monday created discussion and yielded immediate opposition from Boardwalk home and business owners.

Boardwalk Development Association (BDA) President Bob Givarz and City Engineer Terry McGean came before the council at Monday evening’s meeting to present their idea for an additional comfort station to be located on 4th Street and the Boardwalk. There are currently four comfort stations on the Boardwalk, and they are located on 27th Street, 9th Street, Caroline Street and Worcester Street. Givarz, owner of the Alaska Stand on 9th Street, and McGean feel that there is a gap between the 9th Street and Caroline Street comfort stations and see the potential for an additional comfort station in between those at 4th Street.

A few years ago, the BDA and town came together to give the Boardwalk a face-lift and to provide further amenities to improve people’s experience on the Boardwalk. The comfort stations are an example of such amenities that have benefited the town’s featured promenade.

“When we originally did the Boardwalk project, an additional comfort station was proposed at that time,” McGean said of the potential for a fifth station.

McGean explained that at that time the proposal was for a comfort station to be located not on the Boardwalk on 4th street, but west of the Boardwalk in the street itself. The idea was met with opposition and the idea for a 4th Street comfort station faded away.

After the recent reconstruction of the 9th Street comfort station and the positive feedback the city has received, McGean and Givarz feel that it is a good time to explore the possibility of a comfort station be located on 4th Street. The building would be located to the south of the sea wall and at the end of the train lane.

“Hopefully people will find this aesthetically pleasing,” McGean said as he presented rough draft images of what could be achieved at 4th Street.

McGean made several comparisons to the 9th Street location, explaining that it would basically be the same building with the same aesthetic appeal but with slightly different measurements.

The building, if approved and built, will be similar to the size of the 9th Street comfort station, but slightly wider and shorter. It is projected to be about 1,200 square feet with 28 fixtures and estimated to cost around $350,000. If pursued, McGean projects that it would be finished by the spring of 2009.

The glitch in the design lies in the effect that it may have on surrounding buildings and condos.

“Even though the building would be in the street, the roofline of the building would be higher than the balconies of the first floor,” McGean said of the potential effect on the El Capitan condominiums.

This concern brought about several comments of opposition and concern.

Local business owner Greg Shockley came forward on behalf of Shenanigans and the Shoreham Hotel.

“I welcome you guys to take it to a work session,” he said of the proposal, “and let everyone have a shot at it because we have mixed feelings within our group.”

Joann Vogel, a condo owner from the El Capitan, came forward to voice her concerns over having a comfort station built in front of her condominium.

“I certainly applaud all the efforts that you are doing downtown and on the Boardwalk,” she said. “We’d like you to consider a different location or something that’s not going to have an impact on our condo association.”

Vogel addressed two main concerns with the project, asking the council to look at the impact that it may have on the condominium owners’ property value and also the impact that it would have on the people in the first floor units who would be losing the ocean view that they paid for.

Joe Grimes, another El Capitan resident, agreed with Vogel, saying that they all paid for property with an ocean view and many rent their condos under that premise. Grimes also expressed concern over the Boardwalk train, saying that the train turns at that location and could result in problems with people leaving the comfort station and not paying attention to the turning train.

Council President Joe Mitrecic reminded those in attendance that this was only a proposal and that nothing would be decided immediately. He assured everyone that they will have a chance to be heard at the work session and that stronger diagrams and more concrete ideas would be presented.

Councilwoman Nancy Howard agreed, saying, “I think we need more discussion about this,” and motioned to move it to a work session.

Councilman Jim Hall supported the motion.

“When 9th Street was built, it came out looking so good, it’s very pleasing to the eye and I think now is the time,” he said. “Let’s talk about it at a work session and see if we can all get our heads together.”

The council voted unanimously to move the proposal to a work session so that the issues and concerns could be addressed and hashed out. They also agreed that everyone who could potentially be affected within a 300-foot area be notified, particularly the El Capitan residents, Shenanigans, and the Shoreham Hotel.