North Ocean City Land Swap Approved

OCEAN CITY — With no further discussion, resort officials this week approved on first reading a pair of ordinances facilitating a land swap with Delmarva Power in the area of 100th Street.

Earlier this month, the Mayor and Council held a lightly-attended public hearing on the proposed swap of the pair of parcels in the area of 100th Street on the west side of Coastal Highway near the public library. On Monday, the council had before them a pair of ordinances on first reading that will move the land exchange forward.

The two parcels are adjacent and identical in size, and simply swapping them provides a mutual benefit to the town and Delmarva Power and Light (DPL). In February, the Planning Commission held a marathon public hearing on DPL’s proposed use for the parcel it will receive in the exchange. DPL applied for, and eventually gained approval for, the conditional use on the site to develop a battery energy storage system, or BESS, on the lot it is acquiring.

A BESS provides a fallback energy source in the resort for DPL during times of peak energy use on the barrier island. It’s part of DPL’s larger plan to improve and ensure reliability at peak times. In 2019, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) initiated the Maryland Energy Storage Pilot Program. The intent of the program is to explore the efficiency of deploying utility-scale energy storage throughout the state including Ocean City.

When the planning commission held its public hearing in February, uptown residents lined up to voice their concerns with DPL’s plans to develop a BESS on the parcel. The issues ranged from concerns about aesthetic impacts from the vast above-ground battery field and potential health risks to concerns about potential impacts on the bayside viewshed. At the time, DPL officials were able to allay most of those concerns, and when the Mayor and Council held its requisite public hearing earlier this month, just a single resident spoke, and it was not entirely negative.

The town has not made public its intentions for the parcel it will receive in the land swap. The town does have public works facilities on a parcel adjacent to the land in question. At one point, there was a discussion about utilizing the parcel for a potential seasonal housing project, but that has not come to fruition.

With no discussion, the council unanimously approved the two ordinances on first reading advancing the land swap proposal.

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.