Amusement Overlay Expansion Approved In Ocean City

OCEAN CITY — With little debate or fanfare, Ocean City officials this week approved an expansion of the town’s amusement overlay district to accommodate a state-of-the-art haunted house on the site of a former underage dance club on Worcester Street.

The Mayor and Council on Monday approved the ordinance amending the amusement overlay district, which allows certain uses not permitted in other zoning designations. The extension will take in several properties in the downtown area, including the H20 underage dance club on Worcester Street that is now proposed for a modern haunted house.

The intent of the proposed extension is to bring the H2O underage club property into the amusement overlay district to accommodate its redevelopment as a haunted house, but in order to have a contiguous district, four other properties were added including Sportland, Marty’s Playland, the Dough Roller and a lot on the west side of Baltimore Avenue that formerly hosted the Tank Battle amusement and is owned and maintained by Trimpers as a maintenance yard and storage area for its historic amusement park.

After a marathon public hearing in October, the Planning Commission recommended including the H2O site along with the three others on the east side of Baltimore Avenue but gave an unfavorable recommendation for the inclusion of the old Tank Battle lot for a variety of reasons.

For example, the Planning Commission heard testimony from neighboring property owners, including the historic Henry Hotel and the Son Spot Ministry, who were comfortable with the Tank Battle lot in its existing use as a maintenance and storage area, but were concerned with what it could become in the future if included in the amusement overlay district.

The neighboring property owners raised concerns a future change in use, including a potentially large and noisy amusement, could negatively impact the neighborhood and remove a de facto buffer between the amusement areas and the otherwise quiet residential areas. In addition, the Planning Commission voiced concern about a potential change in use encouraging more pedestrian traffic across Baltimore Avenue.

The Planning Commission recommended leaving out the Trimpers’ old Tank Battle lot out of the expansion. However, on assurances from the Trimpers they had no plans to change the current use of the Tank Battle lot, the Mayor and Council put it back in to the ordinance they approved on Monday. Should a change in use be proposed in the future, the Trimpers would have to come back before the Planning Commission and ultimately the council for approval.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.