OC Planners Forward Code Changes

OCEAN CITY – Resort planners last week advanced a pair of code amendments that would clean up certain arcane sections of the town’s code that do no permit certain uses in certain areas.

The Ocean City Planning Commission last Tuesday held public hearings on two different code amendments that would provide opportunities for different activities in areas where they are currently not permitted.

The first would allow a farmers market to continue operating out of a section of the north-side parking lot at Gold Coast Mall.

The farmers market for years existed on a site on the north side of 142nd Street, but that parcel is part of a larger redevelopment project and the market needed a new home.

Recently, the farmer’s market was permitted as a temporary use on a portion of the Gold Coast Mall parking lot. Zoning Administrator Kay Gordy explained the proposed code amendment before the planning commission last Tuesday would allow the farmers market to remain in place in that location.

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“We do feel the comprehensive plan does support small business and generates local revenue,” she said. “Also, it supports green business and encourages eating well, which the farmers market does.”

Farmers market manager Phyllis Wimbrow explained the weekly operation for the market.

“We’re there a maximum of four days a week,” she said. “Everybody brings in their produce, sets up, sells and then breaks it down. We’re out of there by 1 p.m. The Gold Coast Mall is happy to have us, and we’re happy to stay in town.”

Wimbrow explained the farmers market in Ocean City was just that, a venue for local farmers to distribute their produce. She said it would not evolve into something other than that.

“We are the only true farmers market in the area,” she said. “All of our vendors only sell what they grow. We pride ourselves in that. We are not a flea market by any sense.”

Planning commission chair Pam Buckley said she is a regular visitor to the farmers market in Ocean City and said the proposed code amendment made sense.

“I have to say as a customer, it’s very enjoyable,” she said. “It’s always clean and well-organized. It’s the right location and the right space for this.”

The second code amendment presented for public hearing last Tuesday dealt with allowing miniature golf courses in the downtown Boardwalk B-1 district and the Inlet, or I-1, district.

At different times over the years, miniature golf courses existed on the Boardwalk and in the downtown area, but subtle code changes disallowed the use, largely because it was believed property planned for potential redevelopment would likely be more valuable as some other use.

Planning and Development Director Bill Neville explained there was some desire expressed in allowing mini-golf in those downtown zoning districts.

“It was promoted by a downtown business owner,” he said. “Inquiries came in on whether or not miniature golf was allowed in the downtown area.

Buckley said there were mini-golf venues in those districts in the past.

“All I can remember is there was a miniature golf course on the west side of Baltimore Avenue downtown,” she said. “We might find it is appropriate if someone can make a go of it.”

Planning commissioner Lauren Taylor recalled eliminating mini-golf in those districts was not because the activity was somehow undesirable.

“It was a matter of cleaning up the code,” she said. “The idea was the land value wouldn’t support it. It wasn’t like mini-golf created some kind of moral dilemma. It’s a well-established, family-friendly activity.”

The planning commission voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council on both proposed code amendments.

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.