Council Advances Bayside Development Changes

OCEAN CITY – The special regulations for bayside development, also known as Bayside Height by Right, underwent further discussion this week as the Planning Commission made its final recommendation to the Mayor and Council.

Jesse Houston, director of Planning and Development, came before the Mayor and Council Tuesday to present the final recommendations made by the Planning Commission.

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 will provide an incentive for builders to create more diversified buildings that are not the standard five-story condo building.

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.

The Planning Commission met a few weeks ago to discuss the changes that needed to be made to the height by right regulations to get the ordinance passed. The issues addressed at that meeting were roof pitch, density, off-street parking and design review.

Houston presented the changes to the Mayor and Council Tuesday, specifically addressing the changes in setback, parking and density.

Houston explained that the setbacks had been increased and that they would only apply to new construction. He also explained that the commercial parking was reduced from 30 percent to 20 percent.

These suggestions were met with agreement from the Mayor and Council, however the density issue warranted further discussion.

Houston explained that the Planning Commission had suggested that the density requirement be removed. The commission felt that density requirements would deter developers from using the ordinance. They also felt that it was an issue that needed to be addressed across the board in zoning and not just in this specific ordinance.

“I think that the change in density should stay in there,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “I think if it is going to be looked at on a broader scope that’s great, but this is a special district where there are special considerations.”

Meehan added that it would be more logical to make the change while an ordinance for this type of special regulation was being made.

Houston explained the concerns of the Planning Commission.

“The Planning Commission feels that if the density under this ordinance is reduced as opposed to the density under the standard zoning practice than the developer would possibly choose to develop under the standard zoning practice,” he said.

The Mayor and Council agreed that although density should be looked at on a broader scope for all zones, that it would be more beneficial to make the change now.

Another issue addressed by Meehan was the zoning districts. The proposal refers to sections LC-1, SC-1, and BM-1, areas north of 3rd Street and west of Coastal Highway. The mayor pointed out that it should read north of 17th Street instead.

“Because south of 17th Street and west of Coastal Highway, we have a three-story limit which wasn’t in existence before,” Meehan said.

Meehan added that the height by right would not apply to those areas or to bayfront properties.

The council voted to make the change from 3rd Street to 17th Street, to reinstate the density section and to move the proposal to ordinance form.