New OC Mixed-Use Project Gains Nod After Changes

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission hesitantly approved on Wednesday an altered site plan for a mixed use project on a long-lasting vacant property in town, stipulating if traffic issues occur it is the developer’s responsibility to resolve the issue.
A couple of weeks ago, 25th Street Bayside Development, LLC out of New Jersey proposed a project titled 25th Street Condominiums and 2501 Philadelphia Ave. Hotel to be located on the west side of Philadelphia Ave. between 25th and 26th streets.
The Planning and Zoning Commission had concerns over traffic circulation but voted unanimously to grant preliminary site plan approval and to have the designer, Atlantic Planning, Development & Design, Inc., return with an altered site plan enhancing traffic circulation and relocation of parking. On Wednesday evening, an improved site plan came before the commission for review and final approval.
According to Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith, the Misty Harbor Motel once stood at this location but had been demolished many years ago. In the meantime, several projects have come before the commission to take its place but nothing has actually carried through to ground breaking. In the interim, the land has been used for special event parking.
The project will sit on four acres of land surrounding a water channel and is separated into two sites. Site A is on the easterly portion closest to Coastal Highway. At first, the site included two adjoining 4,600-square-foot restaurants on the northern portion next to 26th Street and a hotel consisting of 92 rooms and 16 suites on the southern portion next to 25th Street. The hotel brand has yet to be released.
Site B is a condominium building consisting of 12, three-bedroom units that will be situated on the most westerly portion on 25th Street with the hotel to the east.
According to Atlantic Planning, Development & Design Inc., construction is slated for this winter but it is still up in the air what phase will begin first. The final plans for the restaurant have not been decided, specifically whether it will remain two separate spaces or become one large restaurant.
This week Smith explained the revisions included a downsizing of the two restaurant spaces to 4,500 square feet, each totaling 9,000 square feet, due to traffic pattern changes and relocations of parking to be in compliance with Town code.
A pedestrian walk way running east/west between the restaurant and hotel has been changed to a traffic thru-way, creating circular traffic flow from the back to the front of the property.
The revisions addressed the commission’s concerns over exit/entrance points on the property by adding an additional two-way curb cut on 25th Street creating a straight thru way to 26th Street behind the hotel and the restaurant.
The commission also wanted the most northeastern curb cut on 26th Street, where there is a traffic light, to be exit only to avoid traffic entering the property backing up on Coastal Highway. There is no traffic light on 25th Street. The plan was not altered to address this concern.
Commission members felt cars heading south to turn onto 26th Street at the traffic light and immediately turning left at the most northeastern curb cut are going to meet parked cars waiting at the red light on 26th Street to enter Coastal Hwy.
City Engineer Terry McGean agreed with the commission eliminating the two existing curb cuts on Coastal Highway and adding additional curb cuts on the side streets would enhance traffic flow but disagreed having the most northeastern curb cut on 26th Street be exit only.
McGean said having that point be exit only will create confusion. Patrons will find it an inconvenience to have to enter the property through the second two-way curb cut on 26th Street and have to drive around between the restaurant and hotel to enter the front of the restaurant.
“In that instance, I would prefer them coming in the eastern most curb cut. I think half of them are going to ignore it and come in there anyways,” McGean said. “Given the layout of the site it is preferable to have that as a two-way entrance. Having people drive behind the restaurant to get to the front where they want to be is more of a detriment then allowing them come in that front curb cut.”
McGean provided the Sleep Inn downtown as an example where a drop off was built in front of the hotel, which led to traffic issues on Baltimore Ave. but the town stipulated if issues occurred the drop off would have to be closed and the owner agreed.
“We did agree that if our plan created a problem we will resolve it by having a resolution, which presumably would be exit only,” said attorney Joe Moore, who represents the applicant.
Commission member Peck Miller made a motion to approve the altered site plan based on staff recommendations. If there are to be any design changes, it will have to be re-approved by the commission, and if the most northeastern entrance/exit creates an issue the plan will be altered to resolve the problem. The commission voted unanimously to approve.