OCEAN CITY – Resort planners this week approved a zoning map amendment that could lead to an expansion of the iconic Ocean City Fishing Pier.
The Ocean City Planning Commission on Tuesday had before them a request from the Mayor and Council to amend the zoning map for an expansion of the pier franchise district. The historic Ocean City Fishing Pier juts eastward from the Boardwalk at Wicomico Street and the town has a franchise agreement with the Synepuxent Pier and Improvement Company, which, among other things owns and operates the Jolly Roger amusement park.
In 2019, the Town of Ocean City reached an agreement with the Synepuxent Pier and Improvement Company and its principal, Charles “Buddy” Jenkins, to extend the franchise agreement for the Ocean City Fishing Pier, which has largely been unchanged for decades. The agreement extension added an additional 25 years beyond the 10 years remaining on the contract at the time.
While there are no apparent immediate plans to alter the pier and its associated structures, a review of the zoning map for the unique pier franchise district revealed a flaw in the way the pier area was platted. To that end, the planning commission on Tuesday had before them a proposed zoning map amendment that could lead to a future expansion of the iconic fishing pier.
The proposed zoning map amendment would include an additional 140,000 square feet to the pier franchise zoning district to the north and south of the existing pier and extend eastward beyond the Boardwalk tram lane and crossover for pedestrians. It would not include extending the pier beyond its current eastward end.
Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville explained the intent of amending the pier franchise zoning map is to bring the boundaries into compliance with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommendations. The staff report recommended altering the zoning map for the pier franchise district to correct an error when it was last platted.
“The staff recommends a favorable recommendation of the proposed zoning map amendment, which is consistent with the purpose and extent of the pier franchise code and approved by the Maryland DNR for construction and maintenance of approved public facilities,” he said. “The zoning map amendment is necessary to address a mistake in the existing zoning classification.”
Neville said when the pier franchise was renewed, the plat included only the existing physical structures and not the entire area covered by the renewed agreement.
“The zoning maps should have included the entire franchise area as the pier franchise district and not just the physical pier structure,” he said. “Based on both, the newest 2019 pier franchise plat and the pre-2019 franchise plat, the pier franchise area was larger than what was mapped on the zoning map and the mistake should be corrected.”
The franchise plat, among other things, delineates the amusement pier, the pier building, the fishing pier, the fishing pier building and other existing structures. It also includes the parking lease area, easements for the town’s water main, the Boardwalk tram lane and the pier crossover easement, along with easements for the franchisee’s storage and outside dining areas.
City Manager Terry McGean, representing the town as the applicant for the zoning map change, agreed there was a clerical mistake when the pier franchise district was last platted.
“To me, this was a clear mistake in the zoning map,” he said. “The zoning map was adopted in 1999 and the pier franchise boundary, even though the franchise changed and was re-platted in 2019, the actual boundary has not changed since 1978. Therefore, I don’t know of any zoning districts in the Town of Ocean City that area based on the building and not the property boundaries. The franchise boundaries were established in the 1970s. With the exception of the amusements, the pier boundaries have not changed since 1978.”