New OP Yacht Club Parking Plan Hits Stumbling Block

OCEAN PINES — After being denied a waiver that would allow a joint-use parking agreement at the proposed new Ocean Pines Yacht Club location, the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) may still get what it’s asking for dependent upon the final results of an Administrative Adjustment hearing.

The OPA first approached the Worcester County Planning Commission last week seeking a parking space requirement waiver for their proposed replacement yacht club. Though the site plan was short 62 spaces, OPA General Manager Bob Thompson asked the commission to consider a joint-use parking agreement that the club would set up with Mumford’s Landing pool, an OPA-owned property.

Under the OPA’s proposal, parking at Mumford’s Landing would be utilized whenever there was an overflow on the main lot, generally when the yacht club hosted special events. Unfortunately, this would mean closing down the pool for the biggest events, admitted Thompson. This admission clearly made many on the commission uncomfortable.

“Well, I am concerned,” Planning Commission Chair Marlene Ott told Thompson.

Ott argued there is already a parking problem at the current yacht club and that expanding the size of the building with the proposed replacement without meeting the associated parking requirements could cause trouble. Others on the board echoed Ott, though Commissioner Wayne Hartman came to the OPA’s defense, at least partially.

Hartman pointed out the association owns both the pool and the yacht club and would only be harming itself by hurting either’s business.

“They’d be their own worst enemy if they created a deficiency,” he said.
Thompson acknowledged the risk but was confident that the two entities could operate in harmony.

“We’ve looked at this … it’s only a three-month window that we have to manage,” he said, adding that most major events are expected during times when the pool is already closed.

The majority of the commission, however, felt that a joint-use agreement was not sufficient in this case and voted 5-2 to deny OPA’s proposal.

The matter didn’t stay down for long with the Ocean Pines Yacht Club parking problem coming up again, this time before an Administrative Adjustment hearing Tuesday.

Attorney Joe Moore represented the OPA at the hearing and made a modified pitch from what the Planning Commission heard as to why the lack of spaces should be waived. Instead of dwelling on the benefits of a joint-use agreement, Moore argued that much of the club’s square footage will be used for storage and shouldn’t require as much parking as first assumed.

Additionally, he pointed out that the building is in close proximity to many residential dwellings in Ocean Pines and that it’s more likely that residents would walk instead of drive if they visited the club.

“They’re not going to get in their cars and drive 100 yards to the yacht club,” he said.

Finally, Moore requested that the club parking lot be allowed to use 9.5-foot spaces instead of the standard 10 feet. By reducing the width of the spaces by six inches, he estimated that at least five more spots could be added to the lot, putting a small dent in the 62 spaces lacking from the minimum required for a building as large as the club will be.

A handful of residents also attended the hearing as a show of support for the OPA’s proposal and a letter of backing from Osprey Point residents, who will live directly adjacent to the new yacht club, was forwarded to the Administrative Board. No one from the public attended in opposition to the proposal.

County Development Review and Permitting Director Ed Tudor, who served on the three-seat Administrative Board, acknowledged the OPA had some strong arguments in asking that 20 percent of the parking requirement be waived for the building but admitted that he still had some heartburn over the issue.

“I still do have some concerns with peak hours,” he told Moore.

At times of major events at the club, even should Mumford’s Landing be closed, Tudor worried about lot overflow. He also explained Moore’s argument over the amount of storage in the building was largely moot.

Three years ago, the county revised its parking code in such a way as to be more flexible for buildings that do use a lot of on-site storage. An extensive survey was conducted and most parking requirements were lightened “dramatically,” according to Tudor.

Since the current code already anticipates some leeway for buildings with storage, Moore’s argument was somewhat redundant, which the attorney did acknowledge.

However, Tudor reiterated that the OPA did have a strong case and a unique situation. He recommended looking into a different possible joint-use agreement with a nearby parking lot to alleviate some of the demand on the club lot during events. Tudor also asked to see a re-worked site plan that would incorporate some of the narrower spaces Moore had proposed.

While no decision was made at the hearing, Tudor does have the authority to lower the parking requirement on the club without an additional hearing if the OPA’s efforts and a new site plan with narrower spaces are satisfactory.