City Briefed On Talks Between Developers, Neighbors

OCEAN CITY – Developers of the Rivendell project were expected to request the Mayor and Council to lift the stop work order at Monday evenings meeting, but instead presented the Mayor and Council with an update on the on-going negotiations between the developers and the neighbors of the Rivendell condominiums.

A stop work order was issued earlier this month on the 88-unit project, ceasing any and all work from being continued on the top floor. The stop work order came as a result of recent findings that proved that the building was five feet taller than had been originally planned.

Earlier this month, developers came before the Mayor and Council to request the stop work order be lifted and to explain how the building had reached a height five feet taller than originally anticipated and outlined in the site plan submitted to the town’s planning department.

The company that owns the building, the Buccini-Pollin Group, Inc., was present at that meeting along with their attorney, Pete Cosby, and architect for the project, Keith Iott. At that time, Cosby explained that although the building was indeed five feet taller than anticipated, his clients had no knowledge that they were building taller than what original plans had mandated.

Rob Buccini, co-founder of the Buccini-Pollin Group, explained at that meeting the firm was unaware the plan had been presented at a height five feet less than the current height.

According to Buccini, the land was purchased 14 to 15 months ago during the final round of permit drawing.  Buccini said the company constructed the building based on permit drawings, not the Planning Overlay District (POD) plans presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Buccini also claimed that the current building is only five to six inches taller than the permit drawing height, but when compared to the POD plan the current building height is five feet taller.

Despite arguments they were unaware of the height discrepancy, the council voted not to lift the stop work order, instead advising the developers to settle current conflicts with neighbors to the project.

This week Buccini and Cosby appeared once again before the Mayor and Council, bringing with them another attorney of the Buccini-Pollin group, Wendy Stabler.

Cosby explained that although they had originally intended to present the council with reasons to lift the stop work order, they were not ready to do so at this time. Cosby did inform the council that steps had been made to adhere to the request of the council and to smooth things over with the upset neighbors.

“We have been negotiating heavily with interested stakeholders,” Cosby said.

Stabler elaborated on the negotiations, informing the Mayor and Council Buccini-Pollin had met with the Eshlemans of the Bay Princess.

Shirley Eshleman, president of the Bay Princess Condo Association, has been more than displeased with the construction of the Rivendell project. She appeared before the Mayor and Council in June, voicing several concerns over the building, the main concern being the height. At that time, however, Eshleman had been assured that the building was being built to its approved height. It wasn’t until a month after that meeting that the five-foot discrepancy was discovered.

“I have some unhappy owners at the Bay Princess,” Eshleman said at that time.

Unfortunately for all parties involved, the owners have remained unhappy with the construction of the building, resulting in the need for negotiations between them and the developers.

Stabler informed the Mayor and Council that they had met with the Eshlemans and discussed the on-going construction and mediation issues.

“I believe those issues have proceeded in good faith,” Stabler said.

Stabler also informed the Mayor and Council that they had met with Charles Barrett, president of the Tritons Trumpet Condo Association. That condominium is located to the south of the Rivendell project, while the Bay Princess is located to the north.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to address their concerns,” Stabler said.

A meeting was also held with a group from the Bay Princess that felt that they had not been fully represented by the Bay Princess Condo Association.

Stabler told the Mayor and Council that this was all the pertinent information that she had for them at that time, adding that negotiations are in affect and still underway.

“We hope this council will recognize this and reconsider at the appropriate time to lift the stop work order,” Stabler said.

Cosby requested the issue of addressing the stop work order be scheduled for next week’s work session, Aug. 28, in hopes that the firm will be ready at that time to present the Mayor and Council with reasons why it should be lifted.

With or without the stop work order, the developers will still be facing a hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. requesting an amendment to the height outlined in the POD plan.