OCEAN CITY – The owner of the empty lots located between Old Pro Golf and World Gym on 67th Street has gotten the go-ahead to pursue construction from the Planning and Zoning Commission this week.
Van Metre Companies owns the property, which is currently used as spare parking and is adjacent to Coastal Highway.
The final site plan proposed includes 159 units. Van Metre Group President Roy Barnett explained to the Planning and Zoning Commission that the site will be developed into two areas.
The first area will contain a 108-room and suite hotel, which will be adjacent to Coastal Highway. The second area is located behind the proposed hotel and will contain 51 multifamily townhomes. When ground will be broken on the project is unknown, according to the developer.
During this week’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Zoning Administrator Blain Smith reviewed the list of staff recommendations regarding the site plan.
Standard operating procedure in Ocean City requires a developer to be compliant with a list of specifications in constructing a large infrastructure, especially so close to Coastal Highway. Some items on the list are setback, trash collection, handicap accessibility, storm water management, parking and fire marshal codes.
Smith feels good with the direction the project is heading in.
“Everything they have done is compliant with our standards,” Smith said. “It’s the kind of development that you would want to see.”
Planning and Zoning Commission member Peck Miller added, “They are taking advantage of the height by right in our ordinances.”
The “height by right” term is in reference to the specifications the town requires in order to build a tall infrastructure adjacent to Coastal Highway. The building has to be set back far enough so it doesn’t create a “canyon” effect over the highway.
“Where they [Van Metre] could have normally built a five-story building or a much denser project, they actually did what I think will be a much better project with less density,” Miller said. “The rooms will have much nicer views.”
There was very little discussion regarding the staff recommendations during the commission meeting.
“One of the recommendations that Van Metre didn’t realize was the impact fees of water and sewer of the infrastructure,” Smith said. “This has been a law since 2005.”
Another question was in regards to proposed landscaping. In the past, the town has required a tree every 35 feet around the perimeter of a property.
“There were four locations that didn’t have any tree material,” Smith said. “There was sufficient amount of tree material but it was disbursed on other places of the property…they [commission] didn’t seem that concerned…as long as there was a proper amount of tree material.”
The commission had little concerns over the project. Barnett asked for at least a three-year approval to begin construction and obtain a building permit, but hoped for five years due to the economy.
The commission felt more comfortable with allowing three years, determining five years is too large of a window with unknown variables.
“They [Van Metre] would have to come back for an extension of time if they don’t begin work within that three-year period,” Smith explained.
Miller explained that normally 18 months is granted to begin construction and obtain a building permit.
“The world has changed in the last couple of years and developers and hoteliers are not going to build and operate until there is market demand for it,” Miller said.
Smith added that it has to do with the timing and the market that is going to keep this project from being constructed.
“They have a ‘for sale’ sign on the property so they might build it and sell it, find a lender, or market it, that’s their options,” Smith said.
Smith believes Van Metre will contact different hotel chains to invest in the hotel area of the property.
According to Smith, this is the only permit applied for currently in Ocean City for this scale of development. There has been talk of building a hotel near 44th Street, but he has only seen preliminary plans for the project and the interested party has yet to file a site plan.
As far as Van Metre’s proposal, Miller said, “It is a very well thought out plan, it is very comprehensive, and it looks like it would be an asset to the town of Ocean City.”