Amendment Approval Will Allow WOC Restaurant Redevelopment

Amendment Approval Will Allow WOC Restaurant Redevelopment
The Ocean City Fire Department is pictured battling the three-alarm fire at the Mad Fish restaurant last August. Photo by Campos Media

SNOW HILL –  A text amendment approved by county officials this week is expected to allow redevelopment of Mad Fish, the West Ocean City restaurant destroyed in a fire last summer, to move forward.

The Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve a text amendment to ease parking requirements in the commercial marine district. The change will allow Mad Fish to have most of its parking area across South Harbor Road from the restaurant.

“You still have to have the exact same amount of required parking, it just lets you put it on the other side of the road,” said Hugh Cropper, the attorney representing Mad Fish owner Cole Taustin.

County staff told the commissioners the text amendment would increase the percentage of off-premises parking allowed in the commercial marine district from 50% to 90%. The amendment received an unfavorable recommendation from the Worcester County Planning Commission.

Cropper, however, said the change would benefit the area around the harbor. He said the parking, even if it was across the street, would still be within 500 feet of the restaurant.

“It will allow flexibility in parking,” he said of the text amendment. “It’ll allow people to redevelop.”

Leighton Moore, owner of Seacrets, also spoke in support of the proposal.

“I have no fiduciary reason for being here,” he said. “Cole’s a friend of mine, I designed the restaurant for him out of friendship at this point.”

Moore outlined the restaurant he was envisioning for the site, which would be smaller than the old structure but would be pushed back farther from the water to allow for sand and palm trees.

“I think you should want green area, logically, in a restaurant against the water as opposed to that box sitting there, so I moved the building back,” he said.

Mad Fish would lose seven on-site parking spaces but would still have plenty of parking across the street, according to Moore. He said the size of the restaurant played directly into its ability to be successful.

“You have to have a certain amount of square footage in order to make it,” he said. “We’re only really making money three to four months a year. The rest of the time we lose money, unless we’re closed and you still lose money.”

He ended his comments by pointing out if the Town of Ocean City hadn’t allowed him flexibility in parking, Seacrets would consist of just a tiki bar.

“I have to have my people cross a leased piece of property from Ocean Pines,” he said. “I have 450 spaces that I would not be able to use except the city allows me to have parking within 600 feet. They don’t care if I have to go across private property. They don’t care if it has to go across the road.”

The commissioners voted 7-0 to approve the text amendment.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.