OC Planning Commission Approves Gazebo, Bar Addition

OCEAN CITY — Satisfied the plans met all the code requirements, resort planners this week signed off on a new outside gazebo bar for a midtown restaurant.

The Planning Commission had before them on Tuesday a site plan review for a roughly 800-square-foot gazebo and outside bar requested by the Bayside Skillet at 77th Street. The plan includes the construction of a gazebo and outside bar along the bayside of the property on the northwest corner of an existing outdoor deck.

Zoning Administrator Kay Gordy explained the business owner had first applied for a building permit and the project had nearly made it through that approval process before it was determined it needed the oversight of the planning commission.

“It came through as a building permit application and all of the other permitting agencies had approved it before we realized it required a site plan review,” she said. “Almost everything had been worked out. This one is pretty straightforward.”

Gordy said the town’s environmental engineer and the fire marshal’s office had already approved the expansion and it was only after a final review was it determined the additional square footage mandated a site plan review.

She said the project met all of the code requirements, including the parking requirements. With that said, the planning commission unanimously approved the site plan approval for the Bayside Skillet’s outdoor gazebo bar.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Planning Commission chair Pam Buckley. “It looks like it will really take advantage of those beautiful bayfront views.”

The approval of the outdoor gazebo bar was the only item on Tuesday’s agenda that required action, but the planning commission began a dive into some proposed draft amendments to the city’s code. Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville presented the commission with a laundry list of potential code amendments that could require public hearings and ultimately approval by the Mayor and Council.

For example, Neville explained the code needed some clarification on building heights in the downtown area. The current code allows for four-story buildings with 40 feet in height, although some taller projects are allowed through a special exception.

Neville said the intent of the potential code amendment was to provide incentives to developers to design buildings with pitched roofs and dormers in keeping with the desired downtown design standards. As an incentive, the four-story, 40-foot height requirements could be relaxed somewhat.

“It’s a housekeeping issue and really a simple change,” he said. “If you use a pitched roof with dormers, you can use that space instead of it being considered an attic. You could ostensibly gain a fifth floor, but the trade off is we get the design standards we want down there.”

Planning Commissioner Peck Miller said the issue was not a new one. Miller said encouraging pitched roofs on new buildings was better than the alternative.

“We’ve talked about this for a long time,” he said. “The fear at the time was that we’d get a lot of flat roofs at four stories. We’re trying to encourage pitched roofs where possible because we wanted to avoid a bunch of flat roofs in the downtown area that aren’t in keeping with the design standards.”

In a related issue, the planning commission discussed a possible change in the percentage of a top floor of a new building in the downtown area that could be counted in the formula for occupation. Out of a desire to get new development projects in the downtown area with aesthetically-pleasing pitched roofs with dormers and gables, for example, a formula was created to designate what percentage of the top-floor space could be dedicated to housing. Neville said the issue could be revisited, but said discussions at the staff level led to the belief the existing language in the code addresses it.

“The feeling from the design committee is that there’s enough flexibility in the language that would allow a developer to utilize a percentage of that attic space as employee housing,” he said. “The understanding is they would still have to meet all of the other requirements of the code including parking in order to utilize that space for anything other than storage. We could get some nice architectural features in exchange for some flexibility on how that space can be utilized.”

Neville said a new hotel at 1st Street and Baltimore Avenue provided an example.

“They were able to use 50% of the space for employee housing and still have 50% set aside to meet the other requirements,” he said. “The thing to remember it’s an incentive program and there will likely be trade-offs.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

Alternative Text

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.