Comprehensive Rezoning Questions Surface In OC

OCEAN CITY – In a work session of the Planning and Zoning Commission this week, officials took several rezoning issues into consideration, ranging from individual properties to entire sections of Coastal Highway.

“You need to decide if we want to proceed with any comprehensive rezoning,” said Planning and Zoning Director Jesse Houston. “Comprehensive rezonings are zoning changes made after the adoption of a comprehensive plan.”

Areas such as the east side of Coastal Highway could be considered for comprehensive rezoning, but other areas, such as individual properties, must be addressed piecemeal.

One property presented to the commission for consideration was a 15th Street property, which currently stands in a residential, R-1, zone. Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith pointed out if the property were to be re-zoned to R-2, as desired, the apartment building would be able to rebuild up to five stories.

“With traffic and parking, there’s no way they want more activity there,” said Commission member Lauren Taylor of the neighborhood.

“It would be out of character for that neighborhood to allow a five-story building,” agreed Commission chairperson Pamela Buckley.

The commission agreed that the area would not be considered for re-zoning.

The commission also considered the property housing the Pizza Hut and Buxy’s Salty Dog, located on 28th Street. The front of the property is zoned commercial, LC-1, however the parking lots are zoned residential, R-2, limiting redevelopment.

Buckley suggested taking a closer look at all properties along Coastal Highway. When the comprehensive plan was drafted, technology kept town officials from having a clear picture of where zoning lines would fall, issues that could be better addressed with current technology.

“It just seems to me we need to take a look at everything and make sure our lines are making sense. We need to decide how much commercial we want,” said Buckley.

The commission agreed to continue looking at zoning throughout town and where zoning lines fall.

Zoning along the frontage of “Little Salisbury” has been discussed for many years, with some arguing to rezone the area commercial and others fighting to keep the single-family neighborhood residential.

“The argument is, single-family along Coastal Highway isn’t the most desirable land use. On the other hand, you want to protect your single-family neighborhoods,” explained Houston.

“If you look at those houses, they’re all from the 40’s and 50’s because nobody’s putting big money into building on the highway,” said Taylor.

 Buckley pointed out the adverse affect commercial zoning would have on the neighboring, small-sized, single-family lots. The commission agreed not to consider rezoning in that area.

One area that will be garnering further attention from the commission is the east side of Coastal Highway, from 34th to 59th streets.

“As you know, most of the commercially-zoned property is on the west side of Coastal Highway,” said Houston, pointing out that the east side of Coastal Highway, in that area, is zoned residential, R-3.

Houston explained that the commercial businesses that are on the east side of Coastal Highway in that area are commercial, non-conforming.  As a result, if one of those businesses were to expand or rebuild, they could only rebuild residential.

“At one point, 15 years ago, we did not want further development on the east side commercially, but times have changed,” said Buckley.

The commission agreed to consider the comprehensive rezoning along that section of Coastal Highway.

A public hearing will be held next month to gain public opinion on the amount of commercial and residential zoning desired throughout town.