West OC Property Owner Eyes Cottage Court Concept

SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Planning Commission delayed a decision on a text amendment that would allow cottage courts in the general residential district.

Last week members of the planning commission agreed to postpone a decision on a text amendment that would allow cottage courts — groups of vacation bungalows like those that were once predominant in Ocean City — in the   R-4 general residential district.

The text amendment has been proposed by attorney Hugh Cropper on behalf of West Ocean City resident Mark Odachowski, who wants to develop a portion of his property with weekly rental cottages.

“What Mark’s doing here is good work but we’re looking at this county wide,” said commission member Jerry Barbierri.

Though the proposed text amendment was submitted by Cropper, changes were made by county staff. During last week’s meeting Cropper explained that there were a handful of changes in the staff version that would hurt Odachowski’s plans. Those changes related to porch size, density, parking and setback requirements.

The cottage court development Odachowski envisions would include clusters of 10 cottages an acre mixed with open space and entertainment features. He said he owned 54 acres in West Ocean City and, while he lives on a portion of the property, wanted to develop 10 acres of it.

“I don’t want to sell it,” he said.

Instead, he tried to find a way he could develop it in which his family could participate.

“I liked the idea of cottages,” he said, adding that he stayed in a cottage court when he visited Florida. “It’s something I like. I think it’s refreshing. I think it’s good for families.”

He said it would fit in the West Ocean City community and that there weren’t many similar developments in the area any longer.

“It’s something also I can build as I go,” he said.

Like staff, planning commission members expressed concern over the number of parking spaces required for each cottage as well as the number of cottages per acre and setback requirements. Planning officials recommended the text amendment permit eight units an acre and require that those units have two parking spaces each. They also expressed concern that porches, if allowed to be any size, could be converted into additional bedrooms. County staff pointed out that in the past porches at area campgrounds had been converted into illegal enclosures.

“I don’t think you should penalize us for what another property owner did,” Cropper replied.

He pointed out that rather than cottages Odachowski could build a mobile home park.

Odachowski said he understood the staff concerns and didn’t want to see the issues they mentioned at his property.
“There is room for compromise however you have to keep in mind you’re in a residential district,” said Phyllis Wimbrow, deputy director of development review and permitting.

After some discussion regarding ways the text amendment could be tweaked to address staff concerns while not impeding Odachowski’s plans, the commission agreed to discuss the amendment again in January.

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.