Mid-Town Hotel Project Clears Commission Hurdle

OCEAN CITY – Plans for a new hotel, Hampton Inn & Suites, in mid-town Ocean City received the go-ahead from resort planners this week.

The applicant, Island Hotel Properties Inc., was on the agenda of the Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday evening as it approached final site approval. The site plan review was of a proposed 113-unit hotel to be located on two lots located on the west side of Coastal Highway and on the south side of 44th Street.

Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith presented the commission with a list of final updates from outside organizations and the city’s planning and zoning staff regarding the property. He went through the requirements the developers had to square away for final site approval and for the most part they are all in the clear.

“I think the product is a good product,” Smith said.

In March of this year, the applicant applied for the site plan. Prior to the recent application, the property included a gas station, a single-family residence and a grocery store, which has been in the process of demolition and clean up.

About three years ago, the property was proposed to be a 37-unit condominium building. At that time, meetings were conducted with a wetland agency, an architect and the owner at the time. They discussed where the wetland and residential line would meet due to the prior fuel activity on the property.

“That goes back to the 1970’s and all that has been accomplished,” Smith said.

The property is included in the Critical Area Program where regulations need to be met to protect the surrounding waters from pollutants. Smith said the developers have been working with Environmental Engineer Gail Blazer and the site design engineer to meet stormwater runoff regulations within the critical area.

“We believe the site is now adequate to meet all regulatory regulations for stormwater management and stormwater runoff,” Smith said. “To meet… all other criteria, they have put quite a bit in designing even in this preliminary stage.”

Smith added that the main parking and an offsite parking lot will have to be built to city standards due to stormwater management.

“They are doing some pervious pavers within the parking lot and some hot mix,” Smith said. “Environmentally it can reduce a lot of the runoff of pollutants.”

The required amount of parking spaces for the property is 113 spaces. An additional parking lot will be built on the eastern side of Coastal Highway to accomplish the required parking.

“There are 16 units within the hotel that measure 540 square feet,” Smith explained. “Once they exceed 500 square feet, it then constitutes as a suite, which requires one and a half parking spaces per suite.”

The applicant plans to present the hotel’s parking circumstances to the Board of Zoning Appeals to apply for a waiver for the additional eight parking spaces required, since the suites exceed the space threshold by only 40 feet.

“These are basic hotel rooms,” Smith said.

Smith added the building department, fire department and other agencies have reviewed the site plan, due to the provisions that are subject to all life safety regulations and code. He said as far as certain criteria, such as ADA regulations, emergency access and egress, the plan is adequate and meets life safety requirements.

One of the final components Smith reviewed is the property’s proposed external lighting. On the south side of the property, there is a residential condominium building adjacent to the proposed hotel and the outdoor lighting reflecting onto the condos is considered satisfactory.

“The highest lighting on that side of the property, on the property line, is .2 footcandle which is acceptable and will meet the proposed regulations before the Mayor and City Council,” he said.

The lighting that will meet 44th Street is a proposed .3 footcandle, which Smith said is a low spill over, and the lighting on Coastal Highway will meet .5 footcandle at the highest, which is considered a low level.

“Our street lighting is higher than that and .5 is good in safety on a public sidewalk,” Smith said.

Smith added the external lighting will be installed with downward lighting fixtures which will shield the light from intruding on neighboring properties.

Commission member Peck Miller questioned whether there has been any discussion over a bayside boardwalk that would connect from 44th Street to the convention center.

Smith said there has been little discussion but a private/public bayside Boardwalk to unite the properties along the surrounding bay area would be a “good thing”. The Boardwalk would have to be constructed as a separate effort made between the combinations of the areas adjoining properties.

“We would love to see you tie a Boardwalk in back there,” Miller said.

Miller set the motion to approve the site plan adding the eastern entrance off 44th Street, the curb cut closest to Coastal Highway on 44th Street is exit only, which was recommended by City Engineer Terry McGean. The motion was accepted by the commission in a unanimous vote.

City code provides the site plan approved for 18 months, but Smith said that should not be a problem.

“I believe they intend to start as soon as possible,” he said.