Ordinance Mistake Costs OC Developer

OCEAN CITY – The City Council cleaned up the language in an ordinance specifying how high buildings can be on Jacqueline Avenue, and in doing so, stalled a major project that was about to commence.

The council admitted missing a verbiage error in an ordinance intended to establish three stories as the height limit for buildings built from Philadelphia to Edgewater avenues, but were unwilling to allow a compromise for the developer that will now have to severely alter his plans for a 50-foot building on Jacqueline Avenue because of the mistake.

“We’ve been working on a project for the last six months, and we actually applied for a permit (Monday) for a building that was 50 feet high,” said developer Tom Caulk. “We feel like we’ve played by all the rules and we did what we were told to do and what was legal to do, and this may adversely affect the project.”

Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith said that up until Monday, plans for the building were only “conceptual and skematic”.

“When we saw the concrete drawings, we realized that they want a four story building with 50 feet height,” said Smith, “and it was not until a few weeks ago, that the planning commission realized that (the ordinance) was meant to be three stories.”

Buck Mann, president of Mann Properties, spoke on behalf of Caulk.

“If you look around that neighborhood, there are lots of 50-foot buildings, including the mayor’s own neighborhood for instance,” said Mann, referring to Harbour Island. “It’s a tough decision, but here we have some people that have invested a lot of money, played by the rules, and at the very end, we are going to tell them they can’t do it, I have a problem with that.”

The council seemed to be in favor of a compromise, allowing Caulk to construct a 40-foot building, but that compromise lost in a split vote. In the end, the council decided to leave the ordinance as written passing it 5-2 (with Joe Hall and Doug Cymek in opposition) setting three stories as the height limit, and leaving Caulk seemingly out of luck for his 50-foot building plan.

“Mr. Caulk still has a shot to sway a few people on the council before the second reading of the ordinance in order to get some sort of compromise”, said Council President Joe Mitrecic.