OC Eyes Increased Oversight On Residential Areas

OCEAN CITY – Single-family homes and residential neighborhoods deserve more attention, agreed the Mayor, City Council and the Planning Commission this week.

Planning Commission member Peck Miller addressed the issue at a joint meeting of the Mayor and City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission Monday night, noting the importance of the few, but coveted, residential neighborhoods in the resort.

“Its time for us to pay a little extra attention to those areas,” said Miller, mentioning a few of the residential, R-1 districts in town such as Mallard Island, Caine Keys and Little Salisbury.

Locally, R-1, or single-family residential districts, are defined; “family shall be defined as an individual or two or more persons who are related by blood or marriage living together and occupying a single housekeeping unit with a single culinary facility, including caregivers employed and residing on the premises, or a group of not more than four persons living together by joint agreement and occupying a single housekeeping unit with single culinary facility on a cost sharing basis.”

Caine Woods, Caine Keys, Mallard Island and Little Salisbury are a few of the neighborhoods in Ocean City that are zoned R-1, consisting mainly of year-round residents and second-homeowners.

Miller pointed out the importance of maintaining the neighborhoods through extra attention, street cleaning, regulation and so forth. The goal being to sustain the quality of the neighborhoods that many residents call home year-round.

“If we’re going to keep people living in town, we need to give them a nice place to live,” said Miller.

Several council members and commission members agreed that weekly and seasonal rentals, often unregulated, can cause problems for the neighborhoods with overcrowding of housing that often leads to excessive noise, partying and sometimes neighborhood vandalism.

“People are extremely upset, you make a good point,” said Council member Mary Knight, a resident of Mallard Island.

Knight noted instances of torn up mailboxes and unruly renters this year, pointing out single-family homes that are being advertised to house 16 people.

“You’re going to make people move out of the neighborhoods, it’s already happening,” she said.

“It’s paying attention to the people that live in town, that pay their taxes,” said Miller.

Mayor Rick Meehan suggested strengthening the regulations for single-family homes, specifically rental regulations.

“We don’t have regulations against renting, but we do have regulations on the number of people,” pointed out Planning Director Jesse Houston.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres said deed restrictions could be used to regulate rentals.

“What you have to be concerned about is there’s federal and state housing statutes that deal with rentals,” said Ayres.

“The problem we see is with the weekly rentals,” said Council President Joe Mitrecic of his neighborhood, noting the numerous cars full of people that pile into a single-family home for the week.

Council member Nancy Howard agreed a greater importance needs to be placed on maintaining the single-family neighborhoods.

“If we don’t maintain the single-family neighborhoods, there isn’t going to be anyone here to run the town,” said Howard.