FENWICK ISLAND – Residents will have a chance to share their thoughts on the proposed ordinance change that would allow the redevelopment of the Sands Motel with a public hearing next week.
On Friday, Dec. 4 at 2:30 p.m., the Fenwick Island Town Council will host a public hearing to gather input on the commercial zoning ordinance proposed in October. The ordinance would enable the aging Sands Motel to be replaced with a larger building, as it would allow existing motels one room per 600 square feet. Currently, town code provides for one motel room every 1,000 square feet.
Though the proposed change was deemed more restrictive than what was originally suggested, many residents are still worried it will bring more hotels to quiet Fenwick Island.
“If they change the zoning, it’s going to open up Fenwick Island to more hotels,” said property owner Jackie Napolitano. “That’s a problem and a concern for many residents.”
Napolitano does not support the proposed ordinance — but not because she doesn’t want to see the Sands Motel renovated. She lives next door to the dilapidated motel.
“I’ve had to endure that awful property for close to seven years,” she said. “I do think something needs to be done.”
She’s just afraid that amending the town code will encourage other developers to erect hotels in Fenwick Island, a town long known for having just three such establishments.
“We wanted three hotels and we have three hotels,” she said.
Napolitano believes town officials should explore a variance, not a code change, that would enable developer Spiro Buas to replace the 38-room Sands Motel with the 65-room facility he seeks.
The motel’s website, www.sandsfenwick.com, advocates for the zoning change, which the council approved 5-2 in first reading.
“The compromise zoning revision will enable the development of a completely refurbished Sands Hotel which will dramatically enhance the appearance of Coastal Highway while boosting revenue generated from the hotel tax,” the website reads. “Local restaurants, shops and other businesses, many of which are within walking distance, will benefit from an expanded customer base as the community gains an upgraded Sands Motel for friends and family to lodge when visiting.”
According to the website, the “compromise zoning revision” will maintain restrictions for any potential future hotel properties.
“The Sands Motel, along with the other two hotels in Fenwick Island, will only gain the option to update, remodel or rebuild as existing hotels in Fenwick Island,” it reads.
Some residents, however, continue to express concern over what the change could mean for the town. Resident Richard Benn says Buas can redevelop the property under the current zoning code.
“We put these regulations in place for a reason,” he said. “If we are going to allow liberal zoning, I believe we should get something in return.”
Benn said the town had no assurances from the developer on exactly what would be built in the Sands’ place. He also said a larger Sands would increase Fenwick’s traffic and was a concern for the property’s neighbors.
According to the motel’s website, increasing the number of sleeping rooms from 38 to 65 would add a maximum of 70 vacationers and would have a “negligible” effect on traffic volume.
Nevertheless Benn said he’d like town officials to take public opinion into account before making a decision on the matter.
“I’d like to see the town do this in the legally proper way,” he said.
Resident Kevin Carouge feels much the same. He said he doesn’t object to the redevelopment of the Sands Motel but wants to make sure the town isn’t opening the door to other developers. Carouge said the town should hire an outside zoning expert to evaluate any proposed ordinance before it was passed.
“What I don’t want is an uneducated decision based on the interests of one developer,” he said. “I think we need to take a step back and make sure what we do is applicable and will protect the town.”
Though the public hearing on the matter is scheduled for Dec. 4, according to Fenwick Island staff no decision on the ordinance will be made that day. A regular council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 11.