City Council Clears New Water Sports Operation

OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council reviewed on Monday the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation to add a new water sports operation downtown near the Inlet.

Graham Bostic, owner of the Sea Rocket operation in Ocean City, wants to add a jet ski and parasailing operation to his business. The Sea Rocket operates off the pier near the Inlet on Philadelphia Avenue, adjacent to the fishing pier. He wants to add the new operation to the other side of the pier, so the Sea Rocket, jet skis and parasailing will be operating side by side.

The Planning and Zoning Commission last month voted unanimously to accept his request and sent a favorable recommendation for approval to the Mayor and City Council to approve the conditional use under certain conditions.

Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith was present during the meeting to present the recommendation to the Mayor and City Council.

According to Smith, the Planning and Zoning Commission acknowledged the fact that the Sea Doo, a similar operation, is positioned nearby on the opposite side of the fishing pier. The commission felt there was enough separation and control between the two adjacent businesses.

“There is a basin where they would do training and then the guides would direct them out into the bay,” Smith said.

The commission was concerned over the height of the pier to the waterline and how the operation would have their guests move from the pier to the floating dock where the jet skis will be held. Bostic is required to return to the commission with a site plan approval on how he would accommodate people from moving off and onto the pier.

A benefit to the additional operation is the entire proposed site would be utilized. Only a portion of the site is being utilized now for parking, and the additional business would require the entire lot to be used for parking. Improvements will be made, including a pervious parking lot and landscaping.

Councilman Brent Ashley asked if there is anything worded in the zoning code on how closely the two water sports operations can function. Smith replied that there is nothing in the code but the Planning and Zoning Commission felt that because the basin between the two businesses separate them from the fishing pier, they would not be in conflict with entering the bay waters.

Ashley asserted that he felt it was not fair for the Sea Doo operator who has been in business for 16 years to have a new competing business so close.

Mayor Rick Meehan expressed the demand for water sports and felt that adding another operation would benefit the downtown Ocean City area.

“It is a great activity especially for that area,” Meehan said. “I also understand that this is the property we allow to utilize for parking in the evening, and by expanding the entire lot it would be creating additional parking downtown during after hours.”

Smith added that Bostic also plans to create a recreational area for kids on the far western area of the property, so it will make the site more useful to families.

“I think that the marine-related use in that area really enhances the downtown area,” Meehan said. “When I was working the information booth for the Downtown Association a number of times during the summer, one of the questions I got asked the most was where do we rent jet skis downtown. So there is a lot of interest in this.”

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas was not in favor of allowing an additional jet ski and parasailing operation downtown, due to boat traffic and the rough waters.

“I think it is a unsafe area to add another set of jet skis,” she said. I think there’s enough down there already…it is going to add problems.”

Councilman Joe Hall felt that it would be safe enough as long as the jet skis and parasail stay at least 50 yards away from the fishing pier.

Councilwoman Mary Knight took Hall’s suggestion into consideration and made the motion to accept the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission, adding that the operation will be required to stay 50 yards away from the fishing pier.

The motion passed in a vote of 5-2, with Ashley and Pillas in opposition.

“To have more of these type of operations available will enhance that area and help it grow,” Meehan said. “And I love the fact that it will add more parking at night.”