Developer, Resident Square Off Over Proposed Project

OCEAN CITY – Flubbed verbiage in a town ordinance pertaining to how high buildings can be on Jacqueline Avenue has caused a bit of a stalemate between a developer and a neighboring property owner.

The City Council tried to diffuse a situation with compromise created by a town mishap this week, as property owner Chris Tilghman and developer Tom Caulk went back and forth contesting what the allowable height should be for a massive condominium project Caulk is trying to build next to Tilghman’s property.

The council’s intent in passing a 2007 ordinance that established height requirements from 3rd to 15th streets was to make three stories the maximum height limit for buildings in that area.

Jacqueline Avenue was supposed to be included in those rules, according to several town officials and council members, but the verbiage that was written in the ordinance neglected to include Jacqueline Avenue.

“The map depicts (Jacqueline Avenue) as part of the rule, and the verbiage tried to duplicate that, but somewhere it went wrong,” said City Manager Dennis Dare. “I don’t want to point the finger at who made the mistake, because a lot of people read it, and no one caught the mistake, so basically, it’s all of our faults.”

Caulk, who has been sending town officials ever-changing plans for his project, according to Councilman Doug Cymek, claims he was allowed to build up to 50 feet in height, and when notified of the change, came before council three weeks ago to plead for a compromise.

The council fixed the mistake with a new ordinance three weeks ago, seemingly forcing Caulk to revise his plans and lower the height of his building.

“We have spent tens of thousands of dollars on this project so far, and we have tried very hard to lower this to 41 ½ feet, please meet us there, and allow this”, said Caulk.

Caulk’s pleas were heard but essentially negated when he conceded he had not tried to contact any of the neighbors nor did he try to reach a compromise about the height of his building with them.

“This building has created a little bees nest on Jacqueline Avenue”, said Councilman Jim Hall. “If this had been me, I would have been knocking on every door and trying to figure out a way to get this thing worked out, but by not talking to them, you got caught in a whipsaw.”

Tilghman owns the neighboring property and in fact, actually sold the property in question, 1404 Jacqueline Avenue, to Caulk’s employer.

Tilghman said that anything higher than three stories is unacceptable.

“I sold that property with the assumption that it would be no higher than three stories, and my wife and I are hoping to live there for the rest of our lives, but we don’t want to be shaded in by this project,” he said.

The issue of the sun blockage by the proposed building was a major talking point as council spent the better part of 20 minutes comparing and contrasting neighboring property’s heights, the building’s two proposed stairway shafts which extend 15 feet higher than the roof itself nearest to Tilghman’s property, and ways to try to find some sort of compromise between the two parties.

The council decided to get Tilghman, Caulk and planning and zoning officials together in a room for a discussion toward compromise, but Hall was not ready to let the flubbed verbiage in the ordinance go.

“I don’t want this to ever happen again, because this is embarrassing and totally ridiculous,” said Hall. “If our intent was smaller buildings than we need to know exactly what we are ordering.”