New Bayside Development Rules Passed In Ocean City

OCEAN CITY – After several months of review before both the Mayor and Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission, the ordinance outlining the Special Bayside Development Regulations has been passed on second reading.

At Tuesday night’s Mayor and Council meeting, City Solicitor Guy Ayres presented the ordinance, noting the few minor changes that were made before being presented for second reading.

The minor changes focused on setbacks, an issue that arose in July during the first reading of the ordinance when Ocean City business owner Joe Hall addressed the council on the potential problems with the setbacks outlined in the ordinance.

Hall, a former city elected official speaking on behalf of the Hall family and Hall’s Restaurant, pointed out at the time that the code calls for setbacks of 50-feet from any major road such as Coastal Highway.

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, they would be required to abide by the 50-foot setback on all three sides, essentially leaving them with no room to build. Hall also explained that if they were to develop in the future, their intention would be to put the new additions behind the current restaurant. As the ordinance originally read, this would not be possible due to the setbacks outlined. The restaurant would violate the setbacks, forcing them to move the restaurant.

“We would have to demolish Hall’s Restaurant to use this regulation,” Hall told the Mayor and Council in July.

The council agreed at that time that the ordinance needed further tweaking before it came before the council for second reading.

The ordinance was further delayed, when Jesse Houston, Director of Planning and Development, informed the council that he wanted the Planning and Zoning Commission to sign off on the proposed alternatives before the ordinance was presented to the council for second reading. As a result, changes were made to the setbacks portion of the ordinance.

This week, after bouncing back and forth between the City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission, the ordinance was finally passed, with few concerns being heard from the Mayor and Council.

Councilman Jim Hall asked for clarification on the defined areas affected by the ordinance. City Solicitor Guy Ayres explained that zones north of 17th Street, along with LC-1, SC-1, and BM-1, were the areas being affected. The council made sure to emphasize that only areas north of 17th Street would be impacted.

Councilman Jay Hancock voiced concern over landscaping, questioning whether a minimum amount of green space was required in the ordinance.

“I was hoping it’d say something more stringent,” he said.

Councilwoman Mary Knight questioned why the old shadow study time frame was included in the ordinance when additional shadow study times had been discussed recently.

Houston explained that officials did not want only one section of the town operating under the new shadow study requirements, adding that it was an issue that would be brought before the Mayor and Council in the future.

With no further concerns or caveats, the council voted 6-1 to pass the ordinance on second reading, with Councilwoman Margaret Pillas in opposition.