Friday, October 19 – Questions Lead To Delay On OC Height Limits

OCEAN CITY – Confusion surrounding an ordinance outlining height limitations in the downtown area arose this week, resulting in the 5-1 decision to table the ordinance for the time being.

The Mayor and Council was presented with the second reading of the ordinance to amend chapter 11, entitled Zoning, at Monday night’s meeting, but found just cause to table the ordinance after hearing complaints from a downtown property owner.

In June, the Mayor and Council decided to make a change to the maximum height between Baltimore and Philadelphia avenues. Discussions over the proposed maximum height of four stories and 40 feet resulted in the decision to lower the maximum height. The council voted to amend the height to three stores and 35 feet in the areas between Baltimore and Philadelphia avenues from 3rd Street to 15th Street.

Jesse Houston, Director of Planning and Development, explained to the Mayor and Council several weeks ago that the change affected the R-3A district, 3rd Street to 15th Street, but not the DMX district, North Division to 3rd Street. Houston explained to the council that although he was sure the council meant to include the areas of Baltimore to St. Louis avenues from North Division to 3rd streets, an amendment to the ordinance had to be made.

As a result, an ordinance was drawn up and passed on first reading on Oct. 1. The ordinance called for the changes in height limits from North Division to 3rd street from Baltimore to St. Louis avenues.

Madison Beach Hotel owner George Karvounis came before the Mayor and Council this week to voice his concern over the change in height limits to the DMX district. Karvounis explained to the council that he had bought his property, located in the mixed-use DMX district, with the understanding that he would always be able to build up to four stories. Karvounis claimed that the extra story was crucial to his building plans for a mixed-use project, plans that he claims to have spent thousands of dollars on.

“We really can’t design a whole ordinance around your building,” Council President Joe Mitrecic said.

Councilman Jay Hancock stood by the council’s decision, saying, “I think 35 feet is appropriate for that whole stretch.”

The council agreed that the matter needed further review and voted 5-1, with Hancock in opposition and Councilman Jim Hall abstaining, to table the ordinance and take a closer look at its implications at a future meeting.