OC Council Reviews Comp Plan Update

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City’s revised comprehensive plan moved closer to adoption this week after the completed document was presented to the Mayor and Council for review.

For nearly two years, the Planning and Zoning Commission has conducted a tedious, chapter-by-chapter revision of the town’s existing comprehensive plan. The weighty tome outlines Ocean City’s recent growth activities and lays out a plan for the future in a wide variety of areas from land use and economic development and from population trends to housing, transportation and infrastructure needs for example.

The Maryland Department of Planning requires jurisdictions to submit revised comprehensive plans in 10-year cycles in conjunction with the U.S. Census and Ocean City’s plan was last updated in 2009. After conducting a chapter-by-chapter revision, forwarding a draft copy to the state and holding the requisite public hearings, the Planning Commission on Tuesday presented the final version to the Mayor and Council, one of the last steps in the long process.

Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville said the comprehensive plan presented to the Mayor and Council on Tuesday for final review hopefully reflects the elected officials’ shared vision for the future of the resort.

“The main purpose of the update at this point is to make sure the plan serves the town well and it reflects the issues of today,” he said. “I think we’ve done that with this.”

Neville said much as changed in Ocean City in the nearly 10 years since the comprehensive plan was last updated.

“Many of the changes were necessary,” he said. “Over 20 areas in the comprehensive plan have been updated.”

While the Planning Commission and Neville and his staff largely worked to revise the town’s lengthy comprehensive plan, there was considerable input from the citizens on the updated version. Neville said the final version reflects many of the wishes and desires of the citizens after considerable public input sessions.

“We touched on a lot of areas people were really interested in,” he said. “In general, we rephrased the language in a lot of sections to make it more positive and proactive.”

Some jurisdictions turn the job of updating their comprehensive plans over to third-party consultants. By contrast, Neville said Ocean City’s comp plan was carefully revised with by the Planning Commission with assistance from the town’s staff and the citizens of the resort.

“There are many positive benefits to this update,” he said. “The work was completed in-house by the Planning Commission with the assistance of the senior staff. It’s something we own now. It’s not a consultant’s draft that we weren’t sure if we liked or not.”

Now that the revised comprehensive plan has been presented to the Mayor and Council, the next step in the tedious process is a careful review by the elected officials along with the requisite public hearings. The final step is a submission of the final version to the Maryland Department of Planning for approval.

“You probably want to take time to review it,” said Neville. “The next step is to hear from the Mayor and Council about its priorities. The state code provides for a 90-day timeframe. That gives us plenty of time. Today, we are just presenting the document to you.”

Planning and Zoning Commission chair Pam Buckley praised Neville and his staff for the hours put in on tedious line-by-line revisions to the comprehensive plan and said the final version presented to the Mayor and Council on Tuesday reflected the elected officials’ vision for the resort going forward.

“Mr. Neville has done an outstanding and remarkable job in putting together this document,” she said. “It is so much more user-friendly now. It really reflects the vision and ideas for the town going forward.”

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.