Council To Extend Signage Deadline

OCEAN CITY – Signs along the Baltimore Avenue corridor that for years have not met the town’s code will likely have another year to come into compliance after resort officials last week approved on first-reading an ordinance granting the extension.

During a joint meeting with the Ocean City Planning Commission in September, the Mayor and Council voted unanimously to extend the deadline for bringing private sector signs along the Baltimore Avenue corridor in the downtown and upper downtown overlay districts into code compliance. The deadline, set in motion six years ago, was set to expire on Nov. 18, but with the uncertainties surrounding the redevelopment of the Baltimore Avenue corridor from North Division Street to 15th Street, the Mayor and Council voted to extend that deadline for another year in order to allow the property owners to carefully plan and not move or alter signs twice. The council passed the proposed ordinance on first reading last week with little or no discussion.

The signs in question are not code compliant for a variety of reasons. Some do not meet the code in terms of size or height, while others infringe on the Baltimore Avenue right-of-way. The issue is further complicated by the pending redevelopment of the Baltimore Avenue corridor from North Division Street to 15th Street, an area where some of the non-compliant signs are located.

As part of that project, the town is in the process of abandoning and conveying an unused portion of the Baltimore Avenue right-of-way to the private sector property owners along the corridor. The original deeds show the right-of-way at 75 feet, but the current roadway only utilizes about 45 feet from curb to curb. That leaves an area of about 21 feet in some cases that has been utilized to the property owners over the years for various purposes, including signs, for example.

With the town now in the process of conveying that no man’s land area to adjacent property owners, the non-conforming sign question became an issue again with the November deadline for compliance looming in what now would have been a little over two weeks.

The extension of the deadline will allow for additional public notice of the zoning requirements, and an evaluation of the non-conforming signs affected by the Baltimore Avenue streetscape project. In addition, the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) is preparing recommendations for potential code amendments regarding sign regulations. Only certain non-conforming signs will be eligible for the proposed one-year deadline extension.

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.