Council, Developer Reach Accord On Bayside Project

OCEAN CITY – The contention surrounding the 88-unit Rivendell project reached a reprieve this week with the City Council voting unanimously to lift the stop work order issued earlier this month for the top floor of the building.

The Buccin-Pollin Group, owner of the Rivendell, came before the Mayor and Council Tuesday afternoon with attorneys Wendy Stabler as well as Calvin Nip Jenkins, to request that the Mayor and Council lift the stop work order placed on the top floor of their building. Removing the stop work order will allow work to continue on the top floor until the Buccini-Pollin Group goes before the Planning and Zoning Commission, where officials will be requesting an amendment to the height outlined in the Planned Overlay District (POD) POD plan.

The Rivendell project, located between 80th and 81st streets bayside, has spurred complaints from neighboring condominiums for months, with criticism running the gamut from noisy construction to improper height of the building. The height issue finally came to a head earlier this month when it became apparent that the building was indeed five-feet taller than the original POD plan called for, which resulted in the stop work order.

At a City Council meeting earlier this month, Rob Buccini, co-founder of the Buccini-Pollin Group, project architect Keith Iott, and attorney Pete Cosby explained they had no idea that the plan had been presented at a height five feet less than the current height. Buccini said the building was constructed based on the permit drawings, not the POD drawings presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The Buccini-Pollin Group implored the Mayor and Council to let crews continue with construction at their own risk until the amendment hearing, but the City Council agreed that it would not lift the stop work order until the on-going issues with the neighbors were solved.

Since that time, negotiations have ensued, with Stabler and Cosby briefing the Mayor and Council on the progress at last week’s City Council meeting.

This week, all interested parties came before the Mayor and Council once again, to request a lifting of the stop work order on the ninth floor and to present the Mayor and Council with a summary of the negotiations.

“We have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks attempting to address three series of issues,” Stabler explained.

The issues included, ongoing construction activity, damage to properties and proposed operations of the Hobbit Restaurant, which is to be located on the bottom floor of the building.

“We spent a lot of time in good faith negotiations attempting to address all of those issues,” Stabler said, explaining that officials had met with representatives of the Triton’s Trumpet Condominiums and the Bay Princess Condominiums.

Buccini addressed the Mayor and Council, assuring them that they had been working to correct the mistakes that had been made over the course of construction.

“It was not for a lack of us being here,” he said.

Buccini informed the Mayor and Council that negotiations with Shirley Eshleman, president of the Bay Princess Condo Association, had been completed and that Eshleman had been more than “reasonable” during those negotiations.

Although negotiations were completed with Eshleman, three residents from Bay Princess who were not in agreement with the Bay Princess Condo Association approached Buccini, requesting monetary compensation for the bayview they have lost. Buccini explained to the council that those individuals live on the second and third floors, which were certainly not affected by the five-foot discrepancy in the building height. As a result, no monetary compensation will incur.

“I think that we’ve done everything that you’ve asked of us earlier this month,” Buccini told the Mayor and Council.

Jenkins spoke on the negotiations between the Buccini-Pollin Group, Tommy Heiderman, owner of The Hobbit, and the Bay Princess Condo Association. He explained that 18 concessions had been agreed upon with each the Buccini-Pollin Group and Heiderman maintaining nine concessions, which included items such as no dumping of bottles between 5 p.m. and 10 a.m., no illuminated signage and white lights only on the 81st Street side and no live band or amplified music outside.

“We are in favor of the stop work order being lifted,” said Jenkins, adding that the sooner construction is completed the better.

Despite the headway made with the Bay Princess Condo Association, negotiations were yet to be completed with Charles Barrett from the Tritons Trumpet Condo Association maintaining that no negotiations had been met.

“We’ve only been offered normal, neighborly things.” Barrett said of the negotiations. “That should have been happening all along.”

Barrett conceded that the majority of their problems lie with the builders, SBI Inc., but that the responsibility still lies with the person paying the bills, the Buccini-Pollin Group.

Buccini addressed claims previously heard from Barrett that work was still occurring on the ninth floor, saying, “we just aren’t building there, that would be insane for us to do.”

Blaine Smith, Zoning Administrator, agreed that no work had been done to the ninth floor, adding that an inspector had been to the site earlier that day and found the floor to be the same as it was three weeks ago.

“Today is the day to ask for what you want,” Councilman Jim Hall said to Barrett, facilitating an impromptu negotiation to occur at the meeting.

As a result, a five-minute recess was called in hopes of reaching an agreement before voting on the stop work order.

Negotiations were reached after the brief recess, with the Buccini-Pollin Group agreeing to re-seal and stripe the northern 50 percent of the Triton’s Trumpet parking lot, to power wash and repaint the north side of the building and to work with Tritons Trumpet on the enhancements at the end of 80th Street.

With negotiations finally met, the council voted unanimously to lift the stop work order. City Solicitor Guy Ayres noted for the record that the Buccni-Pollin Group was proceeding at its own risk, and that the council’s decision in no way guaranteed the outcome of next month’s amendment hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission.