FENWICK ISLAND – A moratorium on new hotel construction passed unanimously on second reading last week, effectively halting the issuance of such building permits for another two years.
Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to approve a moratorium on new hotel construction on second reading. As an existing moratorium had expired in July, officials in June introduced an ordinance allowing for a two-year extension.
“I’m in favor of this,” Councilman Richard Benn told the council last week. “We have too many things going on, and we need to see what comes up with the planning commission, resiliency study and parking.”
In 2016, the town council voted to establish a moratorium on new hotel construction following an extensive debate regarding the former Sands Motel. Developer Spiro Buas purchased the property in 2015 with plans to construct a new, upscale hotel in its place. In doing so, he proposed an ordinance change that would allow for one motel room per 600 feet instead of one motel room per 1,000 feet, allowing the hotel to expand from 38 rooms to 65 rooms.
Despite outcry from nearby residents, the council at the time voted to approve the ordinance. However, a two-year moratorium on new hotel and motel construction was also put forward.
Since that time, the council has approved two extensions to the moratorium to allow the town more time to consider the impacts of a new hotel on Fenwick Island. Magdeburger told officials in June she was recommending a third extension.
“After looking at all the issues we’ve got going on in town, it’s my personal belief we need to extend the moratorium once again,” she said at the time. “I’m going to propose – and I have a proposal for first reading – we extend it for another two years. It may be that we only need 18 months, but we’ve got several competing issues going on that we need to address.”
In addition to issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, officials noted the town was looking to construct sidewalks and address parking issues in the commercial district.
The town also plans to complete a resiliency study – which would provide the town with ways to address sea level rise and flooding – as well as a recertification of its 10-year comprehensive plan.
“The Town Council finds that maintaining the status quo of existing motel/hotel uses by placing a moratorium upon the issuance of any permit, license or other approval for or involving new motel/hotel uses in the Town for a period of two (2) years is the minimum time period necessary for the Town to study these issues/concerns and create a plan of implementation that often follows said process,” the ordinance reads.