Mixed Reviews For New Bayside Development Regs

OCEAN CITY – The special bayside development regulations took a step forward on its road to completion this week with the approval of the first reading of the ordinance by the Mayor and Council, but found a mixture of both opposition and support along the way. 

For many, this ordinance has been a long time coming. The Mayor and Council and Planning and Zoning Committee have met on numerous occasions to create the ordinance and adjust it to standards that are conducive to the town.

Last week, Jesse Houston, director of Planning and Development, came before the council to present the final recommendations from the Planning and Zoning Commission. At that time, the council discussed issues such as density and zoning. After making a few final adjustments, the council voted to move the proposal to ordinance form.

The goal of the proposal for bayside development regulations has been to allow for taller buildings in the zoned areas if the builders compromised by meeting regulations in areas such as setbacks, parking, shadows, density and bulk. The hope is that it will provide an incentive for builders to create more diversified buildings that stray from 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.

This week, the first reading of the ordinance to adopt the special bayside development regulations was met with both support and opposition.

Councilman Jim Hall supported the ordinance, adding “this ordinance is a long time coming.”

Councilwoman Nancy Howard agreed that the ordinance warranted support.

“The Planning and Zoning Committee has worked a lot of hours to bring forth this ordinance,” she said.

Opposition was heard, however, from Councilwoman Margaret Pillas, who announced that she would be voting against the ordinance. Pillas explained that she was against building anything over five stories.

The council voted to pass the ordinance on first reading with five in favor, Pillas in opposition and Councilman Lloyd Martin absent.

Later in the meeting, Joe Hall spoke on behalf of the Hall family and Hall’s Restaurant.

“In general we appreciate the effort to bring flexibility to the current code,” said Hall. “Your motivation is in the right direction.”

Hall, the former two-term city councilman, informed the Mayor and Council that although he supports the idea, there are a few specific areas that are causing conflict for the Hall family and their mid-town restaurant.

The main conflict that Hall presented was the regulation regarding setbacks. The code will call for setbacks of 50 feet from any major road such as Coastal Highway. The goal of these setbacks is to provide more landscaping between the road and the building.

The conflict for Hall’s Restaurant is that the building is bound by three main streets – Coastal Highway, 59th Street and 60th Street. As a result, if the Hall family chooses to redevelop on that property, it would be required to abide by the 50-foot setback on all three sides, essentially leaving them with no room to build.

The second conflict that Hall presented also dealt with setbacks. Hall explained that if the family were to develop in the future, the intention would be to put the new additions behind the current restaurant. As it stands, this would not be possible due to the setbacks outlined in the ordinance. The restaurant would violate the setbacks, forcing the restaurant to be relocated.

“We would have to demolish Hall’s Restaurant to use this regulation,” Hall said.

Hall requested that the council consider these issues before the second reading and passing of the ordinance.

The Mayor and Council thanked Hall for his comments and for bringing them to the attention of the council. They agreed that it was not a situation that had been predicted when creating the ordinance.

Hall later said that the council would take a closer look at the ordinance and make the necessary changes. For example, officials may decide to amend the ordinance to require a 50-foot setback from one major road only.