Planners Favor Midtown Escape Room Request

OCEAN CITY — Satisfied the request for a conditional use met the requirements, resort planners approved a new escape room in a midtown shopping center.

The Ocean City Planning Commission last week had before them a request for a conditional use in an LC-1 zoning district that would allow for the development of an escape room in a shopping plaza at 56th Street. The applicant already has two existing escape rooms in Ocean City and was seeking a third in a store that used to house a TCBY at 56th Street.

“The same applicant applied for a maze game on the site a few years ago,” Planning Administrator Frank Hall told the commission. “He operates two successful escape rooms and wants to open a third at this site.”

Escape rooms are a fairly recent concept gaining popularity as an entertainment option. Hall explained the applicant’s vision for his proposed escape room at 56th Street.

“Players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues and strategy to complete the objective at hand,” he said. “The players are given a set amount of time to complete the game.”

Hall said the code for the town’s LC-1 zone did not include language regarding escape rooms. However, he said the proposed project could be dovetailed into the existing code with a recommendation from the planning commission and ultimately approval from the Mayor and Council.

“The category of escape room is not specifically listed as a conditional use,” he said. “There is a catchall that allows the Mayor and Council to approve such a use if it’s consistent with the LC-1 zone.”

Hall explained the escape room could be approved with prior conditions attached. For example, the games would have to be family-oriented and appropriate for all age groups, all required age stipulations must be observed, video monitors must be installed and, per the request of the fire marshal, there could be no locking mechanisms installed to keep the participants locked inside.

“The reason for that is if anybody had a health issue or got scared or nervous and needed to get out they can,” said Hall. “There would be no possibility the doors could be locked without access.”

Hall explained the applicant had a solid track record with his existing escape rooms in town.

The commission voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council.

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.