Fenwick Passes 2-Year Moratorium On New Hotel Construction

FENWICK ISLAND – Following the contentious debate surrounding the redevelopment of the Sands Motel, the town has passed a two-year moratorium on hotel construction.

On Feb. 26 the Fenwick Island Town Council voted to establish a moratorium, essentially a ban, on the construction of any new hotels for two years.

“This will be new hotels only,” Councilman William Weistling said. “It can be extended, modified or terminated at any time.”

According to the moratorium, which was first presented in December, the town will not issue any permit, license or other approval associated with new hotel or motel uses in Fenwick Island for a period of two years. The ordinance cites the town’s upcoming comprehensive planning process and the recent public debate on the issue as reasons.

“In the light of the ongoing debate about whether to expand the total number of motel/hotel uses in the town and because the comprehensive plan update process may result in comprehensive and/or significant changes to the permitted land uses within the commercial zone,” the ordinance reads, “the town council deems it to be in the best interest of the town to maintain the status quo of existing motel/hotel uses during the comprehensive plan update process…”

The comprehensive plan is expected to be complete by June 2017.

The moratorium comes in the wake of extensive public debate regarding the Sands Motel. The motel, one of just a handful in Fenwick, was purchased by developer Spiro Buas, who quickly presented plans to renovate the aging structure. Because town code only allowed for one motel room every 1,000 feet, limiting the Sands to 38 rooms, Buas proposed an ordinance that would allow existing hotels one room per 600 square feet. He plans to enlarge the Sands to 65 rooms.

The ordinance was passed in December but only after intense public debate and a protest petition signed by nearby property owners. In the 5-2 vote to approve the change, council members Julie Lee and Roy Williams were opposed.

It was Lee who then proposed the two-year moratorium. She said it would give the town’s stakeholders time to decide how much growth they wanted to see in the resort as the comprehensive plan was developed.

“It would give us an opportunity to work on the comprehensive plan and develop potentially a hotel district,” she said at the time.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.