Planners OK With 45th St. Water Sports

OCEAN CITY – A public hearing was held before the Planning and Zoning Commission this week and although several local business owners voiced opposition to the conditional use of a water sport activity behind the 45th Street Village, the commission voted to send a favorable recommendation of the application to the Mayor and City Council.

Applicants Tyler Barnes and John Sager presented their request for a conditional use of the area Wednesday evening that is ultimately slated to be a condominium project. Although the north tower of the 45th Street project is complete, the remainder of the project has been put on hold indefinitely.

In the interim, Barnes and Sager hope to operate a water sport business out of the storefront, ultimately renting 10 wave-runners and operating one six-passenger parasail boat.

Barnes, who is the owner of Paradise Water Sports at Hooper’s Island, hopes to expand on his current business, citing 45th Street as the ideal location. “We’ve had extreme success with that,” Barnes said of his current location. “We’ve found that we’ve had an abundance of overflow.”

Barnes intends on operating out of the store location with a 92-foot dock off the back. He explained that he would be transporting gas daily from his gas tanks located at Hooper’s to 45th Street. Twenty-eight-gallon gas carts will be rolled through the store and out to the docks where they will remain all day. At the end of the day the gas caddies will be returned to West Ocean City. Barnes noted that the gas plan had been created with the input of the fire marshal.

Sager pointed out that to ensure safety on the water, staff would be doubling the required 100-foot rule and requiring all renters to remain 200-feet from all objects.

As for the potential overcrowding in that area of the bay, Barnes explained customers would be traveling to safe riding areas. “It’s hard to say where everyone’s going to be, but we will go to the safest area,” he said.

Several water sport business owners as well as a few residents spoke in opposition to the conditional use, noting overcrowding on the water and safety as their main concerns.

“I’m here primarily for safety,” said Seacrets owner Leighton Moore, who travels from his house in West Ocean City to his nightclub almost daily on the water. “It’s a safety and common sense issue. When it gets windy they all go to one area. It’s congested and it’s dangerous.”

West Ocean City resident Michael Guerreri noted the nuisance additional waverunners could add to his property, referring to, “my right for quiet, enjoyment of my property. … The jetskis’s are kind of like mosquitoes to my ears.”

Applicant attorney Dirk Widdowson argued that the opposing business owners do not have the right to control the bay. “Industries don’t get together to preclude other businesses,” he said.

Commissioner Peck Miller questioned the parasail operation specifically.

“I don’t think that parasail boat is going to get within 200 to 300 feet of that place,” said Miller. “That bay is awful congested.”

Commissioner John Staley expressed concern about the gasoline, saying,  “I did have some concern about the dock and the gas caddies, but if they’ve gone to the Fire Marshall and they’ve approved it…”

Commission Chair Pamela Buckley recommended that a one-year interim be approved, that the gas situation be reviewed after a few weeks, that a railing be required along at least one side of the dock and that the applicant secure a plan for emergency rescue.

A motion was made to send a favorable recommendation, which passed 6-1 with Miller abstaining.