Council Nixes New Comfort Station Proposal

OCEAN CITY – After negative feedback about the proposal to build a comfort station on 4th Street, the City Council has agreed to a new proposal to renovate and expand the current Caroline Street comfort station in lieu of the proposed 4th Street location.

City Engineer Terry McGean and Bob Givarz, member of the Boardwalk Development Association, came before the council at Tuesday’s work session to suggest a compromise for the comfort station situation that had aroused complaints from property owners on 4th Street. With a public hearing scheduled during the work session to give property owners a chance to speak, McGean and Givarz felt it necessary to propose a compromise that they hoped would work for all involved.

In June, McGean and Givarz appeared before the Mayor and Council, proposing that a fifth comfort station be built on 4th Street.

There are currently four comfort stations on the Boardwalk – located on Worcester Street, Caroline Street, 9th Street and 27th Street. The most recent addition was a total reconstruction of the 9th Street station, which had been a success and a benefit for the Boardwalk.

“It’s been wonderful, we’ve received a lot of compliments about the building and the facility,” Givarz, who owns the Atlantic Stand on the same block, said of the 9th Street station.

The hope was that the success of the 9th Street station would carry over into the proposed 4th Street comfort station.

At a recent meeting, McGean presented the Mayor and Council with designs, showing that the comfort station could affect the view of the nearby residents. Several residents, particularly from the El Capitan Condominiums, spoke out against the proposed comfort station. The council agreed that the proposal needed to be brought to a work session and that a public hearing needed to be held as well.

On Tuesday, McGean and Givarz appeared before the council again. This time they presented a new proposal, to expand and renovate the current Caroline Street comfort station in lieu of building a new comfort station on 4th Street. Givarz explained that after talking to McGean, city staff and property owners that this compromise was the best solution.

“I think it’s a good compromise, we understand the concerns of the neighbors at 4th Street,” Givarz said.

Givarz also explained that despite monetary and time constraints, they hope to have the renovations and expansion of the Caroline Street facility completed by summer of 2008.

“To my knowledge there are no objections from the property owners directly opposite or adjacent to that area,” Givarz explained. “It’s a facility that most people are familiar with and certainly use a lot.”

Givarz added that he was confident that the compromise would provide a more viable situation.

“I’m in complete agreement and favor,” Councilwoman Nancy Howard said in favor of the new proposal.

Councilman Jim Hall also voiced support, adding, “I agree 100 percent.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight agreed that the new proposal had merit, but she voiced concern for the Fireman’s Memorial located next to the Caroline Street comfort station.

“We do have to be careful of the aesthetics of the Fireman’s Memorial,” McGean said, explaining that it would be taken into consideration as the designs are drawn up. At this time, no designs have been made, McGean said.

McGean pointed out that the Caroline Street location had many advantages. The obvious is that its current existence guarantees there will be no complaints from neighbors. Another advantage, according to McGean, is that there is more room at the Caroline Street location than at the proposed 4th Street location or even at the recently built 9th Street station.

McGean said he hopes to make the expanded and renovated comfort station wider and larger. He also hopes to bring the comfort station up to the level of the Boardwalk. The current facility sits back due to the handicap ramp.

McGean added there was still a lot of thought that needed to be put into the design including bringing the facility up to the Boardwalk level while maintaining the Fireman’s Memorial.

As for the expansion, McGean said he hopes to see an increase in size that will increase the use of the facility.

“I am confident, that we can double the number of fixtures in the existing facilities,” McGean said.

With the new proposal presented at the work session, there was little need for a public hearing. No one chose to speak, despite the large number of people who attended the work session for the purpose of the public hearing.

The council unanimously voted to move forward with the new proposal for the Caroline Street location and throw out the old proposal for a 4th Street location. The decision was met with applause from the 4th Street property owners.