Though the Margaritaville project seemingly back on track made headlines this week, there was also a lower profile development plan reviewed last week at the Board of Zoning Appeals level in Ocean City. An eight-story, 90-room hotel is being eyed for the former home to the Holt’s Landing restaurant at the south end of Ocean City on the bay north of the Oceanic Motel. This is a unique property in downtown Ocean City. Triangular in nature, the property offers some unique vistas and has been ripe for commercial development for more than 30 years.
Since Holt’s Landing was razed in the late-80s, the bayfront property – located south of Sunset Park and north of the Oceanic Pier – has been proposed for several different developments with five site plans approved along the way. A mixed-use concept called Jennieville was in the works for many years but never materialized after being granted a 125-parking space waiver. Back in 2013, preliminary site plan approval was granted for Buccaneer’s Caye at Shipwreck Cove, which consisted of a nearly 11,000-square-foot restaurant and tiki bar with some on-site employee housing. Ingress and egress issues eventually led to the project being scaled down and then never heard from again. Similar projects, like an eight-story condo most recently, have come and gone with no serious action.
A major problem with the unique site is parking and vehicular access. The hotel developer working through City Hall came before the BZA last week seeking a 12-spot parking waiver from the code’s stipulations for the site. The developer is hoping 101 spaces for a 90-room hotel and spa will be approved. The tricky part is there will only be 61 parking spaces on the hotel site with 40 more coming from across Philadelphia Avenue on city-owned property that may or may not be leased to the private property owner.
It’s the gray area that seemed to derail the approval. As has been an issue in the past with previous site plans, the on-site parking issues must be worked out. As BZA member Chris Rudolf said, “I’m having a little heartburn over where these offsite parking spaces are actually going to end up coming from. The state where we are right now, I just don’t think that aspect of what is being asked for is ready for prime time.” Seeing the votes were not there for approval, developer attorney Hugh Cropper said, “I feel like you’re holding us to a higher standard than the code provides. The code allows elasticity for unique situations. The staff recommended it. It’s consistent with what you’ve done elsewhere and there are parking problems all over town. The master plan talks about incentivizing redevelopment.”
My hunch is we will see this project again as the developer is reportedly committed to building on the site.
A foot of snow usually shutters schools for days. The timing of the blizzard arriving Friday night into Saturday followed by bright sunlight for a couple days is mostly to credit for the quick return to normalcy around here, but there clearly seemed to be a better approach to clearing the roads. Credit goes to the state roads departments partnering with the local public works departments to remove the massive amount of snow in a timely fashion. There seemed to be better collaboration behind their mutual efforts this time around.
Whenever I vacation at a destination, it’s always intriguing to observe what’s happening there compared to here in our resort area. I spent a week in Vermont skiing last week. Nosey by nature, I asked a lot of questions of businesses and employees, and the responses mirror the same struggles as Ocean City did last summer – help and supply chain issues.
Help is an issue everywhere. As was the case here last summer, there were desperate signs posted on businesses looking for help as well as encouraging patience, or “begging” as one merchant wrote in his handwritten note posted on the door. One sign I took a picture of read, “We are doing the best we can, please be patience with us as we are desperately understaffed.” Another sign on a breakfast place read, “Sorry, folks we had to close today. We needed a break. Be back tomorrow or the next day (Friday at the latest).”
At the Mount Snow resort, things were much different than four years ago. Despite it being peak season, most restaurants were not fully functional as a result of help issues and the pandemic. Rather than multiple entrances to enter the various restaurants and stores within the main lodge, there was one main entry where a vaccination card had to be shown for each entrant with masks required. Most of the lift operators at the resort were Visa workers but the language barrier prevented me from getting more information. Nepal and Nicaragua were common countries seen on the nametags. Similar to last summer here, conversations with employees and business owners showed fatigue but excitement about pending snow storms.
Additionally, supply chain issues were rampant on all fronts. Restaurants, retail stores and grocery stores were selling whatever they could, but it was common for items to be unavailable at any given time. Storeowners seemed accustomed to answering the questions, promising customers were being offered all they had.