OCEAN CITY — Resort planners this week approved a four-building residential project along the bay at Herring Way near 20th Street after a larger debate about the possible impact of on-street parking on the existing neighborhood.
The Planning Commission was presented on Tuesday two site plan reviews, including one on Herring Way and another on 57th Street, each of which met most of the code requirements and came with positive recommendations from the staff. Each of the projects had special conditions attached to them with regards to parking exceptions.
The Herring Way project, for example, will consist of four structures, each of which will be constructed as a two-family duplex. The four buildings will be spread throughout the parcel with a shared pool in the center of the property. Each of the eight dwelling units will have a two-car garage underneath the building for a total of 16 on-site parking spaces.
Planning Commissioner Palmer Gillis raised concern the parking garages, as they are wont to do in a resort community, will fill up with beach equipment, pool accessories and other items and won’t be used as parking for the residents. As a result, Gillis voiced concern the property owners and their guests will resort to parking on the street in an area already stressed for parking in the summer.
“I think this puts a lot of pressure on on-street parking,” he said. “I’m concerned about the impact on the neighborhood. Those two-car garages aren’t going to be used for parking. They’re going to be used for storage.”
Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville said nearby commercial properties stress the on-street parking in the neighborhood during the peak times of summer, but parking should be readily available during much of the year. Neville essentially said it will be up to the eventual property owners to find parking if they choose to use the garages for storage purposes.
“During peak times, Fish Tales and Bahia Marina create pressure on on-street parking in that neighborhood,” he said. “There will be a lot of times when guests will be able to park on the street in that area. The use of garages as storage instead of parking is kind of a self-imposed thing.”
Planning Commissioner Peck Miller said he was inclined to agree.
“If you fill your garage up with toys, you lose the parking spaces,” he said. “I just don’t know how we could enforce that.”
It was pointed out the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) had already approved a parking special exception for the project. Gillis, however, remained adamant about the potential on-street parking issue.
“I’ve been consistent with this,” he said. “We’ve sat up here and held developers’ feet to the fire over parking exceptions. This seems to be going away from that. I just don’t know if I can support this project as designed. It’s a beautiful project. Everything is great about it. I just think it will have a detrimental effect on the neighborhood.”
Gillis suggested the in-ground pool on the property could be sacrificed in the name of expanding the amount of parking available on the site.
“If we want to be consistent, why would we not ask the developer to remove the pool and add more parking spaces?” he said. “If the solution is right in front of us, why would we not ask for that.”
However, Miller said the in-ground pool was an important and attractive design feature for the residential project.
“I don’t think that is the solution,” he said. “This project is improved aesthetically with the pool and that open space.”
After considerable debate, the commission voted 4-1 with Gillis opposed and members Pam Buckley and Chris Shanahan absent to approve the site plan for the project.