OCEAN CITY – The code regarding Mobile Home Districts will likely soon be changed on the height of homes, while the council will further deliberate allowing more flexibility regarding the height of a roof pitch at a later date.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Mayor and City Council considered a recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission to amend the Code regarding the Mobile Home (MH) Residential District to state, “The area above the maximum building height under a sloped roof not exceeding a 7/12 roof pitch may be used for habitation subject to the dormers not exceeding the ridge line, which shall be determined by the narrow width (and not the length), of the main building and in compliance with all applicable life safety regulations.”
The Planning & Zoning Commission held a public hearing on Sept. 16 to discuss the matter following a request by residents of those communities to consider this issue proactively to minimize light, air and ventilation restrictions and hazards that might be associated with such narrow lots and minimum setbacks in the MH District.
This week Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith explained the MH District has evolved since 1970 when Ocean City first adopted a MH zoning law.
The building height allowed in the MH District has always remained 15 feet. However with the evolution of mobile homes, Ocean City has amended its code accordingly.
“Mobile homes have advanced. They have gone from single wide, to double wide, from manufactured units to industrialized buildings, and the Mayor and City Council have changed regulations to allow custom built homes in the MH District,” Smith said. “The most recent change to building height was to allow habitable space in the attic space of a sloped roof but it has to be developed in accordance with life safety regulations.”
Smith furthered at that time Ocean City restricted the MH District to a 7/12 roof pitch, meaning every 12 feet horizontally, height gains seven feet.
“With that 7/12 roof pitch, you have to maintain at least seven feet and 7.5 feet of head room to qualify for habitation. With the 15 feet overall height, it gives you the ability to have a Cape Cod design,” Smith said. “When we changed the height definition, we also allowed dormers as long as the dormers do not exceed the ridge line of the house, so it has the design feature of a Cape Cod design.”
Ocean City’s premiere MH park is Montego Bay, which was conceived in 1969. The average lots are 40 feet by nine feet. The other MH parks are the Isle of Wight, Warrens Park and Sundowner Park that were pre-existing to Montego Bay and have smaller lot sizes.
In August, Isle of Wight Mobile Home Park petitioned the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider amending the code to prohibit lengthwise roof pitches due to the chance homes in the Mobile Home Residential District could be built two-to-three stories high that would tower over neighbors.
“The three parks that have the small lots are trying to get more living space, and that is why they started doing this. The parks believe it is detrimental to the light, air and safety by separation of buildings and they believe we need some control city-wide,” Smith said.
Councilman Wayne Hartman questioned if the commission deliberated a 9/12 roof pitch.
“My only concern is when you have an 18-foot wide lot your options are less … I agree to use the width of building as opposed to the length because length wise it could get ridiculously out of hand but if we make it 9/12 then Montego Bay can set their own guide lines within their bylaws of their organization, and still allow the smaller parks the ability to have usable space with 9/12. I don’t think it is more restrictive but allows more flexibility to individual parks to do what serves them best,” Hartman said.
In Smith’s opinion, a 9/12 roof pitch is appropriate for a Cape Cod design and in the past attempted to have the MH parks agree to no avail.
“Why this became 7/12 was in the 1980s a Nanticoke went into Montego Bay, and they had started with a 5/12 roof pitch. Montego Bay changed their regulation to allow that 5/12 roof pitch but later in the 1990s Nanticoke moved up to a 7/12 roof pitch as their standard design, and Montego Bay adapted,” Smith said. “I worked for at least two years with Montego Bay because they were not all together on the issue of habitation in the upper space and I brought up the 9/12. It was not received well. They thought it would destroy the community increasing the height of the roof. Architecturally and to the benefit of the homeowner it would be the better thing to be a 9/12. With a Cape Cod dormer, it would give a better architectural feature. A 7/12 will work but it is a little bit peculiar.”
Councilman Doug Cymek made a motion to approve the commission’s original recommendation by forwarding the action to be passed by first reading during a Monday night legislative session.
The council voted unanimously to approve while in consensus to revisit the discussion regarding a 9/12 roof pitch at a later date, starting with the Planning and Zoning Commission scheduling a public hearing regarding the matter.