Boardwalk Display Changes Eyed To Clarify Enforcement

OCEAN CITY – Proposed changes to the section of the City Code regarding display of outdoor merchandise on the Boardwalk aims to clarify confusion and allow for easier enforcement.

Last week the Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing concerning proposed changes to the City Code involving outdoor display of merchandise standards for properties fronting the Boardwalk.

The first proposed change was amending the title of the Boardwalk Development Association (BDA) to the Ocean City Development Corporation Boardwalk Committee (OCDCBC) due to the association joining forces with OCDC.

The main issue was OCDCBC had proposed to scratch, “Properties with a 32-foot setback from the Boardwalk are allowed a 12-foot display area adjacent to the building. The display area within the setback may not exceed 30 percent of the setback display area; the allowed amount of merchandise may be displayed no closer than 10 feet to the Boardwalk” and “Properties with less than a 32-foot setback from the Boardwalk area are allowed an 8 foot display area to the building. The display area within the setback may not exceed 30 percent pf the setback display area; the allowed amount of merchandise may be displayed no closer than 10 feet to the Boardwalk.”

Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith explained the reasoning for the move.

“North of 3rd street there is a 32-foot setback in most instances on the length of the Boardwalk but there are a couple of areas — on 5th street and 9th street — that only have a 20-foot setback, and they were treated differently in how you allocated the allowance of outdoor display,” Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith said. “OCDCBC believes that they should be uniformed for consistency and will remove the confusion between the two.”

The proposed language to replace the two clauses is “Properties fronting the Boardwalk north of 3rd St. are allowed outdoor display of merchandise based on 30 percent of the pad area measured 10 feet distance from the property line adjacent to the Boardwalk to the face of the main building by the width of the pad in front of the main building.”

The next proposed change is, “Decorative and functional amenities are allowed and encouraged to the 10 feet area abutting the Boardwalk to enhance the display and the Boardwalk experience. These amenities may include live plantings (no plastic or silk plantings), and attractive seating such as benches and chairs for the comfort of the visitors. The amenities must be well maintained throughout the entire season.”

“They amended this item to say decorative and amenities are voluntary, not mandatory anymore but they encourage it. It didn’t seem like something we had a lot of success with as a mandate. A lot of people enjoyed it … but it became an enforcement dilemma,” Smith said.

Another change is, “No display may exceed five feet in height with the exception of sunglasses racks, which are manufactured at six feet, and open umbrellas of six feet and eight inches used to protect merchandise display from sun damage; and other items deemed appropriate by the BC.”

Smith explained the original requirement where display of merchandise could not exceed five feet also became a dilemma as other items such as surf boards and kites exceeded five feet, and the proposed change would give the OCDCBC discretion when it comes to the appropriate height of merchandise display.

Other changes proposed are, “No business may create a barrier between businesses by using merchandise or signage to inhibit the flow of traffic from one business to another. There must be a 24-inch walkway between businesses.” Currently, the code allows for 42 inches.

Also, “One A-frame, not to exceed 17.5 square feet for every 25 linear feet of Boardwalk storefront frontage shall be permitted, not to exceed two A-frames per storefront.” The change is the added word of “storefront.”

There were no public comments and the commission closed the public hearing. The commission then voted 6-0, with member Joel Brous absent, to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to approve the proposed changes as an emergency ordinance in order to have the amendments in place prior to the upcoming summer season.