OCEAN CITY — The goal of achieving more affordable workforce housing in town inched closer to reality this week when resort planners signed off on a proposed boarding house for 84 seasonal workers on a vacant lot in the downtown area.
On Tuesday, the Planning Commission had before them a site plan review that proposed a three-story-plus rooming house or boarding house on a downtown lot on Dorchester Street that has been vacant for a decade. It’s no secret Ocean City is experience an acute shortage of seasonal workforce housing and there are several projects going through various stages of the design and approval process.
The planning commission on Tuesday reviewed plans for a proposed boarding house or rooming house on Dorchester Street. The plan calls for 10 large rooms with the capacity to house 84 individuals. The rooming house or boarding house distinction is important because the code for those designations offers relief from stringent parking requirements.
For example, the developer has already received a waiver for what would have been 16 required parking spaces. The conventional thinking has been most summer seasonal workers that would stay in rooming houses or boarding houses would not likely have vehicles. Zoning Administrator Kay Gordy explained the history of the site proposed for the project.
“The property was once a multi-family apartment site that was demolished in 2012 and has been used as a temporary parking lot by the current owner for several years,” she said. “It’s a unique property in that it is planned for employee housing but does not include any commercial use.”
Gordy said a staff review of the proposed project met the requirements for a boarding or rooming house in the code.
“It fits in well with the comprehensive plan, which encourages in-fill and redevelopment,” she said. “The goal here is to provide affordable seasonal workforce housing.”
Applicant Harry How, representing the developer, explained some of the elements of the proposed 84-person seasonal housing project.
“Most of the rooms are for eight people, but one of larger ones is for 15 people, along with one room for the resident manager,” he said. “The first floor would include a kitchen and common areas, and the upper floors would have a lot of living space. We’re trying to give them plenty of space for themselves and lots of common areas.”
Planning Commission Chair Pam Buckley said she was pleased with the amount of open areas included in the plan.
“It looks like you have some good living spaces in the design,” she said. “That part looks good. You can’t have enough living space, especially with eight people in a room. I really like the plan.”
The commission voted unanimously to approve the site plan for the proposed project.