Council Okay Slight Height Change For Condo Project

OCEAN CITY – The Gateway Grand condominium project gained approval for a six-foot height change to its parking garage this week, a minor change that will not affect the overall height of the building, but one that warranted an air of caution among the Mayor and Council.

In an effort to avoid what several people have referred to as “another Rivendell”, the Mayor and Council took the request for a change to the Gateway Grand project on 49th Street seriously this week, making sure to have all questions and concerns addressed before making any decisions on the request for an additional six-feet in height.

The change calls for an additional height of six feet to a screening structure along the side of the parking garage. The structure was included in the original plans with the intention to screen two cooling towers.

Attorney Joe Moore appeared before the Mayor and Council in December seeking approval for the change, but the Mayor and Council wanted more answers before approving any changes to the major condominium project.

Architect Ron Morgan of Becker Morgan Group returned with Moore this week to explain the situation and clarify the need for what he considers a minor change.

According to Morgan, his company underestimated the height of the screening structure, anticipating that the structure would provide more than enough height to conceal the two cooling towers. Morgan assured the council that an additional six feet on the side of the parking garage would have no affect on overall height, setbacks or shadow studies.

“This is normal in a construction project to have details like this that come about,” Morgan said.

Morgan pointed out Becker Morgan over-estimated the height of the main building by 20 feet in an effort to allow plenty of room for error, but failed to do so with the screening structure.

“We want to do this with your permission, not beg for it after it’s done,” Morgan said.

The structure will enclose two cooling towers that are currently visible along the north side of the parking garage. The aim is to enclose the towers to provide a more aesthetically-pleasing view of the building.

“I’m okay with screening it, screening it would make it more attractive for everybody,” said Councilman Lloyd Martin.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas also voiced support for the change, but noted her original concerns with the request.

“I do have a problem with changes that occur. If you originally meant for it [cooling towers] to go in the box, it should go in the box,” she said, maintaining her dissatisfaction with post-site plan approval changes.

Despite her unease with after-the-fact changes, Pillas agreed that the change would be beneficial for everyone.

The council voted unanimously, with Councilwoman Nancy Howard absent, to grant the approval and allow for the additional height on the screening structure.