Ocean City Council, Planners Eye 3rd Meeting

OCEAN CITY – Officials say a fall meeting of the Mayor and Council and the Ocean City Planning Commission will give members enough time to make any necessary code amendments brought forward from previous discussions.

Last week, the Mayor and Council had before them a draft agenda for a third joint meeting of the two government bodies. While the date was initially set for April 11, or the council’s next work session, officials agreed to approve the agenda with a fall meeting date.

“We did two joint sessions, back to back, and we should see some forward progress before we get to a third one,” Councilman Peter Buas said. “I’d like to see it done in the fall, and I make a motion to approve the agenda but push it to a fall calendar date to be determined.”

A rift between the Mayor and Council and planning commission was first made evident last year, when the council removed two proposed code amendments brought forward by the commission from its August agenda. And last fall, the Mayor and Council and members of the planning commission met for the first time to clear the air over certain issues.

Over the course of two meetings – one held in September, and another held in December – officials discussed topics such as nonconforming signs, LED lighting, parking, building heights, workforce housing and conditional use approvals, among other things. Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville told the Mayor and Council last week those topics would be reviewed at the third joint meeting.

“So the agenda that you have in front of you would essentially provide you with an update on those items the council did provide direction on at the last meeting,” he said.

Neville added the agenda would also include items the Mayor and Council and planning commission did not have time to discuss, including the site plan appeal process and funding related to traffic lights and crosswalks.

“I don’t think we really touched on those to a point where we got particular direction on that …,” he said. “We can either keep it on for discussion purposes or not.”

He said he also included minimum residential parking requirements and nonconformity as discussion topics.

“We tried to focus on this question of redevelopment is a term that is not currently included in the nonconformity section …,” he said. “If we do want all the nonconformity to apply to all brand-new redevelopment, that word redevelopment should probably be included in this section. That would be a clear statement of what we think our current policy has been. If we agree that it was left out for a reason, we need to confirm that with you.”

Neville told officials this week he was seeking approval of, or alterations to, the proposed agenda. The meeting, he said, would be held April 11, during a work session of the Mayor and Council.

“I think both the council and the planning commission would benefit from being able to at least have a brief discussion on the nonconformity issue if we meet,” he explained. “It’s an opportunity for council to either add or subtract from this agenda and also confirm whether or not you’d like to move forward with scheduling a meeting for your April 11 work session.”

Buas, however, said officials have yet to receive any proposed code amendments from the first two joint meetings.

“This is the third joint session, and we haven’t seen any code amendments come up since those two joint sessions,” he said. “And while, of course, there is spirited discussion as to nonconformity, I’m wondering if it’s premature until we actually get some of this stuff on the beginning of this list checked off.”

A motion made by Buas to approve the agenda with a third joint meeting to be held in the fall was seconded by Councilman Will Savage. With no discussion, the council voted 5-0, with Councilman John Gehrig and Council President Matt James absent.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.