Planning Comm. Okays Boardwalk Display Changes

OCEAN CITY – The level playing field has been laid out, but Boardwalk merchants are going to be spared the official “referee” due to a lack of funds.

The Planning and Zoning Commission have sent forward their amended guidelines to Boardwalk displays to the Mayor and City Council.

City Planner Jesse Houston said that hopes to hire an enforcement officer to patrol the Boardwalk to ensure compliance is not possible due to the town’s financial hardships. Houston said that some current employees, however, should take turns monitoring the Boardwalk.

During months of discussion, and perhaps for the past few years, the two main outcries from the Boardwalk merchants have been to create a level playing field that would be enforced if and when some merchants place their outdoor displays either on the Boardwalk or over their own property line.

The Planning and Zoning Commission hoped that setting guidelines would not be prohibitive to each store’s business but strived to make the Boardwalk more attractive without going to extremes.

“We didn’t want to go the way of Virginia Beach and Disneyworld and remove all outdoor displays,” said Commissioner Peck Miller. “People want things to be fair, and I think what we’ve proposed is very fair and puts it under one headline.”

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Lauren Taylor has been vocal in her efforts to make the Boardwalk a more “beautiful” place and is seemingly an advocate of replacing some of the outdoor displays with nice landscaping or at the very least urging merchants to improve the quality of the outdoor displays themselves, such as removing rusty racks and dilapidated storage bins.

These guidelines, which prohibit any outdoor display to be within 10 feet of the Boardwalk, but allowing up to 30 percent of the setback from each store’s property line, will make it reasonably easy to enforce whether or not merchants are in compliance.

“The 8 1/2 x 11 page that will be posted on the storefront is pretty self-policing,” said Miller. “If it’s on the wall, then there is a definition about what is allowed to be on display.”

Each store will post a sheet showing a design of their outdoor display and the commission is hopeful that it will make the issue effective but all the while fairly simple.

“We got a lot of great input from the merchants and input from the Boardwalk Development Association, and I think we all are pretty happy with what has transpired,” said Miller.