New Downtown Hotel Site Plan Revisions Approved

OCEAN CITY — With the new Cambria Hotel steadily rising from the old Cropper Concrete property just north of the Route 50 bridge, the developers came before the Planning Commission this week with some revisions to the original site plan.

The exterior structure of the eight-and-a-half story Cambria Hotel and its associated amenities are taking shape after breaking ground in February 2018 and developers this week came back to the planning commission seeking approval for a handful of site plan revisions for the finished product. On Tuesday, the planning commission heard a request to approved expanded outdoor seating for the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, the conversion of four storage areas to additional hotel rooms, the development of a Starbucks in the first-floor lobby area and the relocation of an indoor fitness center. Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville briefed the commission on why the proposed changes were being requested at this time.

“This is a site plan revision while the Cambria is still under construction,” he said. “They’ve reached a point where they are working on interior revisions, and it’s a good time to bring it back before you so there aren’t any last-minute issues when they are close to opening.”

The Cambria Hotel project was approved after careful vetting by the planning commission and ultimately the Mayor and Council over zoning and height issues for the better part of a year in 2016 and 2017. The zoning change came with conditions, including a maximum height for the hotel at eight-and-a-half stories, a total lot coverage not to exceed 50 percent, a 10-foot easement along the waterfront for a potential bayside boardwalk, wider sidewalks, reduced impacts on neighboring residential areas and other factors.

The proposed changes presented on Tuesday would increase the number of rooms from the original 132 to 137 including five suites. It will now feature 137 spacious guest rooms with private balconies, and indoor-outdoor infinity pool, poolside cabanas, a tiki bar, outdoor fire pits and local art collections.

Because of the conditions placed on its approval, the Cambria’s footprint occupies a fairly small portion of the overall former concrete plant property. As a result, expanding the number of rooms, growing the outdoor seating at the rooftop restaurant and adding a Starbucks, for example, were reason to take a closer look at the original parking calculations, according to Neville.

“We think it’s important to take a look at some of these issues such as the expansion of the rooftop bar and outdoor seating and the first-floor Starbucks that could alter the parking calculations,” he said. “After a review, there would still be more than enough parking with the proposed changes.”

Even with the proposed changes, the Cambria would still comfortably meet its parking requirements. Neville pointed out the zoning of the property would allow for a much larger project than what is being built.

“Even though they are changing from 131 rooms to 137, the larger site area would allow for many more rooms,” he said. “With the changes, it’s still less dense than what the property allows for.”

Commission Chair Pam Buckley pointed out altering the size of the outdoor seating would requite adjusting the size of the restaurant in kind.

“The way it sits now, the restaurant would have to be reduced by 400 square feet,” she said. “That’s unless something else changes along the way.”

Commission members Lauren Taylor said sought a closer look at the parking calculations to make sure the requirements were being met.

“We need to be sure they are not double-dipping with the allowable parking discounts,” she said. “We know there is little, if any, street parking in that area.”

However, Buckley pointed out the project as designed had a least one parking space per hotel room along with the significant amount of other parking for the restaurant and other amenities. Neville agreed, pointing out the project is less dense than what could be allowed.

The developers have also been working with the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC), which has signed off on some of the design features with a few adjustments in color schemes and railing designs, for example. The planning commission ultimately approved the site plan revisions with the staff recommendations, the OCDC’s input and the adjustment of the square footage of the rooftop restaurant.

When asked when the Cambria Hotel was expected to open, local attorney Joe Moore, who represents the developer, said it should be ready to go before next summer.

“They estimate opening by about April,” he said. “They want to be open before the beginning of a new season.”

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.