OCEAN CITY — Satisfied potential noise issues won’t become problematic, resort officials agreed to bend the rules and allow an earlier start time for a mid-town hotel construction project.
The Mayor and Council on Monday had before them a request to relax the ordinance that prohibits construction work around Ocean City before 9 a.m. during the summer months. The request came from contractor Whiting-Turner, which is building the new aLoft Hotel at the old 45th Street Village site.
The project has been underway for months, but has reached a point during the construction when large-scale pouring of concrete for decks is necessary. Whiting-Turner requested allowing the concrete pouring to begin at 7 a.m. instead of the 9 a.m. mandate for a variety of reasons including the summer heat. The company also pointed out 7 a.m. would allow them to finish that portion of the project faster.
“They are in mid-construction and working through their summer schedule,” Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville said. “Normally, as we enter the summer season we restrict construction activity to no earlier than 9 a.m. They would like your consideration for altering the schedule for two major concrete deck pours. They would like to start those at 7 a.m. so they could complete the majority of them in a single day.”
In addition, Whiting-Turner was also seeking to relax the rules to allow the contractor to begin using power tools at 7 a.m., which would be a blanket request for the entire summer. Neville explained the overall size of the property provided considerable buffers from neighboring properties and it was believed the tools would be within the prescribed decibel levels.
“Two years ago, I learned about this issue and the history behind it,” Neville said. “The council chose not to consider a blanket request for a hotel project at 11th Street and the Boardwalk. In that case, the building under construction was just inches from its neighbor. Last year, the council approved a concrete pour at the Crystal Beach Motel. That was a case where the nearest neighbor was the next block across the street.”
Neville said the overall size of the site at 45th Street and the new hotel’s positioning on the site likely made the potential noise problem a non-issue.
“The closest residential units are the Bella Vista condos and they’re about 400 to 500 feet away from the construction area,” he said.
Whiting-Turner project manager Dave D’Alessio agreed the property’s overall size was reason enough to bend the rules for the earlier start time.
“The size of our site has a lot to do with our request,” he said. “At no point do our readings even exceed the traffic noise on Coastal Highway. That’s why we’re requesting the 7 a.m. start time for power tools.”
Councilman Tony DeLuca said he lives across the street from the hotel construction project and has not been impacted by noise. DeLuca made a motion to approve the requested construction schedule adjustments.
“I live right across the street and my balcony faces it and I can’t hear a thing,” he said.
Council Secretary Mary Knight agreed the construction noise from the aLoft Hotel project was minimal.
“I knew this was coming up tonight so I went down to the northeast corner of the property to listen and I couldn’t hear a thing,” she said.
However, Knight asked the Whiting-Turner representatives if one particular noise nuisance could be avoided if the earlier start time request was approved.
“At 7 a.m., will your trucks be backing up with that beeping sound?” she said. “That’s the one thing I recall really tends to bother people.”
Council President Lloyd Martin agreed with the beeping sound from trucks and other heavy equipment backing up.
“Any way you can have them pull in without backing up?” he said. “That beeping sound at 7 a.m. is going to be louder then anyone wants to hear.”
D’Alessio explained there really was no way of getting around the issue of the concrete trucks backing up at times, but said the beeping noise could be kept to a minimum.
“The concrete trucks do need to back up, but they tend to be a little quieter than other normal equipment,” he said. “They’re kind of muffled because of all of the concrete in there.”
Councilman Dennis Dare agreed the beeping sound from heavy equipment is the most common nuisance for neighbors of construction projects.
“One thing you might want to consider is to position a box truck in the area so the sound is deflected up,” he said.
Another issue for the council was the notification process for neighboring residents and businesses.
“We will be alerting the local businesses and the condo people,” Whiting-Turner representative Jason Williams said. “We’ll try to give them as much notice as we can, but at least they’ll know what days we’re pouring concrete.”
Dare said it would behoove the contractor to alert area residents and businesses as much as possible and urged the company to take whatever steps it could to minimize the noise.
‘The people in those condos are on vacation,” he said. “They don’t want to hear a day ahead of time they will be up at 7 a.m. the next day. That’s not what they bargained for. I think you can take some precautions to minimize that.”
Councilman Wayne Hartman pointed to a somewhat unique situation with a nearby hotel.
“My concern was for the hotel right next to it,” he said. “I think the Hampton Inn is the closest neighbor. I talked to them to see if they had any issues. Unfortunately, the Hampton Inn has a 100-percent guarantee and if somebody goes to the front desk to complain about anything, they have to give a 100-percent refund. They said they have had to refund three nights so far. I talked to the developer and asked if they start at 7 a.m. can they at least start as far north on the site as possible.”
Hartman asked if the council approved the requested start time alterations, would there be any recourse to reverse the decision if problems arose.
“If there is a problem, would planning and zoning have the authority to revoke that immediately so it could come back to us to mitigate it?” he said. “I hope it’s not an issue and I certainly don’t want to slow down progress there …”
The original motion was amended to include a clause that would allow the approval to be revoked if any noise issues arose. The council approved the earlier start time with a 6-0 vote with Councilman Matt James absent.