North OC Escape Room Approved

OCEAN CITY — Satisfied the request for a conditional use met the requirements, resort officials this week approved a new virtual reality escape room in an uptown shopping center.

The Mayor and Council had before them Monday a request to approve a conditional use in an LC-1, or local commercial zoning district, that would allow for the development of an escape room in a shopping center at 118th Street. Zoning Administrator Frank Hall told the council the applicant already has two successful similar operations in Ocean City and was seeking approval for a third.

“It’s basically a virtual reality escape room,” he said. “The applicant has conducted this type of business around town already and the request is to fit out this particular unit in the Food Lion shopping center.”

Hall explained the code for the town’s LC-1 district did not include language regarding escape rooms but did include language for similar operations such as arcades.

The request on Monday came with a favorable recommendation from the town’s planning commission, which carefully vetted the proposal. Hall said beyond the typical conditions but on a conditional use request, the planning commission added another regarding the types of activity allowed in the proposed escape room.

“One of the conditions they put on this is that it has to be family-friendly and age-neutral,” he said. “It’s been carefully reviewed and there isn’t anything the least bit objectionable with this proposal.”

Hall also said the proposed location made sense because of the ease of access for potential customers.

“One of the nice things about this location is the pedestrian access,” he said. “There are sidewalks and crosswalks all over this area.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the conditional use request. However, Councilman Dennis Dare pointed out the request might have identified a flaw in the existing zoning code.

“This LC-1 district allows for things like arcades and mini-golf, for example, but it prohibits things like this,” he said. “Pyramidal zoning also allows residential uses in this district, so it seems like we might have pyramidal zoning backward. It’s vital to the town and we want commercial uses like this along the highway.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman agreed it could be time to revisit certain sections of the code.

“If there is ever an opportunity to revisit pyramidal zoning, this might be it,” he said. “We might have other areas where commercial is appropriate in residential areas.”

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.