OCEAN CITY — After a spirited public hearing, Ocean City planners this week endorsed a proposed code amendment that would permit a change in roof pitch heights in zoned mobile home parks in the resort.
The Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday held a public hearing on a proposed change to the code that would allow increases in roof pitch heights in designated mobile home parks throughout the resort. Technically speaking, the proposed change would allow roof pitches on residences in mobile home parks to be increased from the current 7/12 designation to a taller 9/12 height. In layman’s terms, the code change would allow roof pitches in mobile home parks to be increased by about 18 inches, which would not dramatically changes the appearance of the homes, but increase the amount of livable space and allow for more diverse design elements.
Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith explained the evolution of mobile homes in the town’s MH-zoned areas from single wide trailers several decades ago to double-wides, and then modular and ultimately stick-built residences. Lot sizes in the mobile home parks generally restrict the size of new homes with required setbacks and other requirements, but over the years, the roof pitches have inched steadily higher, creating more living space and, in some cases, extra bedrooms. Smith said the latest trend is Cape Cod-style homes essentially with one-and-half stories and changing the code to allow the 9/12 roof pitches would help accommodate that.
“Architecturally, if you’re doing Cape Cod-designed houses, 9/12 is more desirable,” he said. “The 9/12 is more permissive both visually and practically. Unless there is something unusual with the roof lines, and I don’t think there is, this is beneficial to the property owners.”
Smith further explained the code change would apply in all mobile home zones in Ocean City, but was simply enabling legislation. It would remain up to the individual homeowners associations to continue to govern roof pitch heights and other design features.
Planning and Zoning Commission President Pam Buckley said the evolution of home designs in the mobile home parks made the code change logical.
“Obviously, we’re seeing a product more readily available now,” she said. “At the same time, we want to protect the integrity of the communities. We’re dealing with the entire town of Ocean City, not just one part. They all have their own restrictions and they’re usually stronger than ours.”
Montego Bay Civic Association President Mike Donnelly told town planners a ballot had been sent out to property owners to gauge interest in allowing the code change although the results were not yet in.
“You can see how we’ve progressed,” he said. “In the last seven years, we’ve seen only five mobile homes come in, but there have been 60 new stick-built homes. In the by-laws established in 1969, nothing wider than a 12-foot mobile home was allowed, then we went to 14 feet, doublewides, modular and now stick-builts.”
However, Montego Bay resident Andrea Albrecht said when she became a property owner in 1969, most of the lots were 40 feet wide and included a two-car parking pad with some on-street parking available. However, with the steadily evolution from single-wide mobile homes to double-wides, then modular and finally stick-built homes, the livable space, and more importantly the number of bedrooms has increased in kind.
She said allowing the roof pitch change from the current 7/12 to 9/12 would only exacerbate the problem. She said the increased living space would add more residents and visitors, putting a strain on parking in the community and diminishing the quality of life for many long-time residents.
“That is an unintended consequence of the increased living space,” she said. “All of the new homes have walk-up stairs and increased habitable space. Homes in Montego Bay are allowed two bedrooms, but now we’re seeing three- four- and five-bedroom homes. What we’re seeing is people saying they have four-and five-bedroom houses, which would be fine if we were Caine Woods. The 9/12 pitch only creates more potential habitable space.”
While the debate centered largely on Montego Bay, Planning Commission attorney Will Esham, Jr. reminded those involved the code change would apply to all mobile home parks and each association would have the opportunity to make changes to their own covenants and restrictions to allow it if they desired.
“If you approve this, it’s not binding on any association,” he said. “This only gives the association the option to allow this.”
For their part, the planning commissioners supported the proposed code change and voted to forward a favorable recommendation to the council.
“Visually, it’s not make or break, but for livability, those 18 inches can make a huge difference,” said Commissioner Lauren Taylor. “Encouraging improvement of properties is clearly a good thing for Ocean City and the tax base.”