BERLIN – A bill that would allow residential development in the C-3 commercial district will move forward for consideration by local officials.
Two of the Worcester County Commissioners agreed last week to put their names on a bill that would allow multi-family dwellings in the C-3 district.
“It certainly would allow people to use their property to house their employees if necessary and have commercial space on the front side,” said Commissioner Joe Mitrecic. “I think it’s a good idea. I do support it for that reason.”
Jennifer Keener, the county’s director of development review and permitting, told the commissioners this week that the Worcester County Planning Commission had voted unanimously to give a favorable recommendation to a proposed text amendment that would allow multi-family dwellings in the C-3 district. Keener said it would mean that a developer could have 65% of a property commercial and then use the remaining 35% for high density residential. Keener noted the only C-3 property was around the Home Depot area.
Commissioner Jim Bunting asked how much the density would increase over what was currently permitted, as right now C-3 property can have residential but it has to be attached to the commercial portion. The text amendment would allow commercial on one section of the property and residential on a separate portion of the property.
“It’s apples to oranges,” Keener said, adding that she couldn’t make a comparison unless she had a specific footprint to consider.
Commissioner Eric Fiori said there was a limited amount of commercial space available and didn’t believe increasing residential within the commercial made sense.
Mitrecic said it could help provide more housing though. He added that was an issue in Ocean City and beyond.
“… it’s a problem throughout the upper end of the county,” he said. “We have no employee housing left. This would allow a developer to have his commercial entity in the front and employee housing in the back possibly.”
Fiori acknowledged there was a need for residential.
“Yes, we do have a need for housing but the idea that a developer that owns this prime C-3 property is going to build this property, lease it out commercially in the front, and then, because they’re such a friendly developer, they’re going to create employee housing in the rear seems a stretch at best,” he said.
Mitrecic and Commissioner Diana Purnell agreed to put their names on the bill to allow it to move forward for consideration.