OC Zoning Code Changes Passed

OCEAN CITY – Two zoning code amendments were approved by the Mayor and City Council this week, including changes to the definition of building heights and certain parking requirements.
According to Zoning Analyst Kay Stroud, the current definition of building height states, “The vertical distance from grade to the highest point where the exterior walls meet the roof at the top plate. The area above the maximum building height (attic) shall not be used for living purposes, which includes working, sleeping, eating, cooking or recreation, or a combination thereof unless otherwise permitted within district regulations.”
The new definition recommended creates a specific benchmark for measurement, and will instead read, “The vertical distance from base flood elevation or two feet above grade, whichever is greater, to the highest point where the exterior walls meet the roof unless otherwise specified.”
According to Ocean City’s Zoning Code “grade” is defined as, “grade elevation shall be measured at the crown of the improved street upon which a building fronts, measured at the point perpendicular to the midpoint of the lot line.”
The code also states within the residential district maximum building height shall be no more than 50 feet and shall be no more than five stories, except as otherwise provided under special height and yard regulations per section 110-901 for buildings taller than five stories.
Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith asked for the amendment to be passed by emergency ordinance on Monday evening due to current projects that are on hold waiting on the adjustment of the baseline, such as projects on 25th and 57th streets.
The Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing on Oct. 15 to consider the staff recommendations. The commission voted favorably to present the code amendment as an emergency ordinance due to the change of market conditions.
At the time of the public hearing, Smith explained if each floor of a building is nine feet tall it would leave only five feet between the grade and the first floor.
“Sometimes because of base flood elevation they have to raise the building up, and they lose some of their floor to ceiling height … so if we give them to the base flood elevation or two feet above grade they can get it up and have better height under the building,” Smith said. “Many times it is the parking level that suffers.”
Smith used the new La Quinta Inn & Suites being constructed where the Ocean Voyager Motel was on 32nd Street as an example of one of the current projects that will benefit from the code change. Smith pointed out though the project is not taking advantage of it.
“They barely had the right height for clearance, and if this is enacted they can raise it up and have a legitimate height under that building,” Smith said.
The Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to approve the amendment to the building height definition by emergency ordinance.
The second amendment was made to the code regarding parking regulations. The ordinance was also passed by a unanimous vote in its final reading.
City Manager David Recor submitted, the ordinance revises language to clarify parking space requirements for restaurant use within shopping centers. It does not change the calculation process.
The code now states, “Shopping centers, shopping plazas, retail stores, personal service establishments and convenience food stores greater than 5,000 square feet of gross floor area: One space per 225 square feet gross floor area, except for movie theaters … when restaurants, fast food establishments, cocktail lounges, taverns, nightclubs, or other establishments for the consumption of food or beverage on or off the premises are located in a shopping center: If these establishments, individually or in total, comprise 25 percent or less of the gross floor area of the shopping center, the parking requirement shall be that for shopping centers; If these eating and drinking establishments, individually or in total, comprise more than 25 percent of the gross floor area of the shopping center, parking shall be provided for the floor area in excess of the 25 percent … The parking calculation shall be computed for the retail and eating and drinking establishments separately and then combined.”