Council, Planning Comm. Plan 2nd Summit In December

OCEAN CITY — The Mayor and Council will hold another joint summit next month with planning commission members to discuss issues germane to development and redevelopment.

In late September, the Mayor and Council met with members of the Ocean City Planning Commission for a long-awaited joint session. The last time the two bodies met jointly to discuss issues related to zoning, development, redevelopment and certain sections of the code was in 2016.

During the September joint session, the two bodies worked through much of the aggressive agenda, but many issues were left on the table. At the close of that session, it was determined it had been productive, but there was still much work to be done to ensure the Mayor and Council and the planning commission were on the same page on many of the issues. In recent months, there has been an apparent rift bubbling below the surface between the planning commission and the elected officials, and the joint summit was a means to find some common ground on some of the issues.

The Mayor and Council last week got a first look at the proposed agenda in place for the second summit scheduled for Dec. 13. City Solicitor Heather Stansbury presented the agenda, which includes a renewal of discussions on items covered in the first summit, along with issues not discussed before the close of the September meeting. Stansbury said it was clear the two bodies wanted more time to have an open, frank discussion on some of the issues.

“The question that came up at the end of the first joint session was a desire to have an open discussion on some of the issues,” she said.

Items on the agenda for the December summit include an update on the non-conforming sign ordinance in the downtown area, an update on the comprehensive plan revision along with a timeline, continued code amendments including lighting requirements for new development, parking requirements, including garage parking and stacked parking in all zoning districts.

The agenda also includes a discussion of maximum building height measured from above parking under a building and a site plan appeal process. The agenda includes discussions of non-conformities for minimum parking requirements and pyramidal zoning in certain districts. Council Secretary Tony DeLuca said he would like another item added to the December joint session agenda.

“I would like to have any and all new construction to be required to have a traffic signal or crosswalk as approved by the State Highway Administration,” he said. “I’d like that added to the discussion.”

Councilman Peter Buas also asked that an item be added to the agenda as proposed.

“I’d like to add to the discussion the elimination of commercial parking requirements,” he said. “I think that should be a discussion point.”

With little more discussion, the council unanimously approved the agenda as proposed with the discussion items requested by DeLuca and Buas added. Meanwhile, in a related order of business, a new planning and zoning commissioner has been appointed to fill a vacancy on the board.

In recent months, there has been a considerable changeover in the makeup of the planning commission with longtime members leaving and new members appointed. During last Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Rick Meehan introduced Pam Robertson as the newest appointee to the board.

“We’re excited Pam has decided to give her time to the town of Ocean City and serve on the Planning and Zoning Commission,” he said. “She’s very vested in Ocean City and this is her home. He knowledge of the local events and issues makes her a great asset to the board.”

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.