Fenwick Committee Reconsiders Proposed Ordinance Changes

FENWICK ISLAND – Proposed changes to Fenwick Island’s code on height regulations were questioned in a resort committee last week.

Last month, the Fenwick Island Charter and Ordinance Committee met in a meeting to begin its review of town height regulations and exceptions following a contentious debate on possible “gray areas” in the town code.

Currently, buildings or structures in Fenwick Island cannot exceed 30 feet in height, or 32 feet in height if the building has a freeboard that elevates the structure.

And while the committee last month agreed that no mechanical equipment should be allowed above the town’s height limit, committee chair Bill Weistling told the group at its most recent meeting he was concerned the proposed change could impact a business’s ability to place ventilation equipment – such as exhaust units – on the roof in the commercial zone.

“If we want to ban anything from the roof, I think we need to give a lot of thought on that,” he said.

Under the proposed amendment, Weistling noted that a restaurant in the commercial zone would be forced to place their ventilation units on the side of a building, causing smoke to blow onto nearby businesses and residential structures.

“I think we should allow some mechanical equipment on the roof to a certain height,” he said.

Town Manager Terry Tieman noted that eliminating mechanical equipment from the roof could impact redevelopment.

“Land is scare, so by limiting what you can put on the roof, you are limiting the possibility of redevelopment,” she said.

Committee member William Mould, however, disagreed.

“I don’t want to discourage anyone from putting something in the commercial zone and then be limited by the 32 feet,” he said, “but I think they have the option to go before the Board of Adjustment … There is a vehicle for them to go above the 32 feet.”

After further discussion, the committee agreed to seek advice from an engineer in drafting an ordinance that would prevent or limit mechanical equipment on the roof of a commercial building.

The committee last week also agreed to table a discussion on the elimination of the Fenwick Island Building Committee.

Currently, the town’s Building Committee reviews and either approves or disapproves building permit applications for construction costing more than $20,000. With the proposed amendment, the committee will be disband and all responsibility given to the town manager and building official.

In last week’s committee meeting, however, Tieman voiced her concerns with the proposed amendment. She noted that she and Building Official Pat Schuchman would feel more comfortable with having site plans for commercial developments reviewed by an educated committee.

“I would not feel comfortable and Pat agrees she would not feel comfortable reviewing commercial (plans) on our own,” she said. “We feel comfortable looking at it, but I think it needs further scrutiny.”

Tieman suggested the town keep a Building Committee to review site plans for large projects – such as commercial buildings, churches, temples, government buildings, hotels, educational buildings and more – until the town form a planning commission.

“It would only be for those purposes,” she said, “until we can look at the code and get a planning commission and review process set up that would handle this.”

Tieman recommended the committee also have an engineer review any commercial plans that are submitted. She noted that a new review process would be beneficial and highlighted new redevelopment projects at the Sands Motel and the Dairy Queen on Coastal Highway.

“We haven’t had a lot of commercial development,” she said. “The first commercial development we’ve had in years was the bank and now we are looking at the Dairy Queen and the Sands. I think it might be time to revise as part of the review process.”

The committee agreed to table its discussion until the idea was brought to the town council.

“I think what we need to do is get council’s advice on how to proceed with that,” Weistling said.

Schuchman said she supported the idea.

“I don’t see any problem with an extra set of eyes looking at any large commercial (plans),” she said. “We are going to see more and more of that.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.