Commission Forwards Code Changes

OCEAN CITY – Two code amendments will advance to the Mayor and Council with favorable recommendations from a resort commission.

On Tuesday, the Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission voted to forward two code amendments – one related to habitable attic space and another related to enclosed parking – to the Mayor and Council with favorable recommendations. The commission’s actions come two weeks after a lengthy public hearing, during which several developers stated their objections to new off-street parking standards.

“I think we’ve heard a lot on these topics …,” Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville told the commission this week. “Once you finish any deliberation on these two code amendments, I think they are ready for a vote to recommend either forwarding to the council or not.”

On Oct. 3, local developers came before the commission with concerns that the proposed off-street parking amendments would not only hurt property values, but development potential in town. They argued that new dimensions for enclosed parking spaces were too wide, particularly on smaller lots, and that a code amendment wasn’t the best way to deal with parking issues in town, among other things.

Back on the agenda for deliberation this week, the commission agreed to exempt lots 50 feet wide or less from the proposed parking dimensions. For lots greater than 50 feet wide, new parking dimensions for each enclosed space would be changed to 10 feet wide by 21 feet deep.

“The typical lot size is 50-by-120 …,” said commission member Palmer Gillis. “I think 50% of the testimony we heard was regarding the single lot. And by eliminating any additional requirements for that would go a long way toward eliminating their concerns.”

As initially proposed, the off-street parking amendment would also raise  minimum requirement for multifamily dwellings from two-and-a-half parking spaces to three parking spaces for each three-bedroom unit or townhouse. If more than two spaces are required, a minimum of one space per unit would be required to be open and unenclosed.

Gillis told commission members this week, the proposed code amendment would not only address the lack of off-street parking in residential neighborhoods, but the use of enclosed parking spaces for storage.

“The city council says make the spaces larger,” he said. “Honestly, all you are doing is making more storage. So the goal is to get one space outside, so at least they will have one off-street parking available to that unit.”

Commission Chair Joe Wilson, however, said he was concerned the Mayor and Council would not support the commission’s proposal that the number of spaces should increase, or that one of the spaces should be unenclosed.

“I would very much like to see both of those, but I also remember two years ago we sent a minimum parking requirement that got shot down,” he said. “That’s why we’re still here with no change. Personally, I would like to see something go through. I think leaving those two out, it would have a 100% chance of going through, or a very good chance.”

Gillis, however, suggested the number of spaces remain at two-and-a-half, but that a minimum of one space be unenclosed. The commission ultimately supported the compromise.

“What we’ve proposed so far, I don’t believe is enough …,” he said. “But if you are not going to change the parking quantity, make one of the two-and-a-half spaces be outside, unenclosed.”

The commission this week also discussed a required five-foot driveway apron. Officials noted that developers did not understand why the five-foot apron was being suggested.

“In some cases it creates a place for your garbage can …,” Neville said. “The other thing is it helps when there’s a downspout coming down. There’s a lot of diff reasons why you put that apron in front of the garage door.”

The commission, however, agreed to change the wording of the amendment to require that garage doors be recessed five feet from the alleyway.

“It accomplishes the same thing,” Neville said.

After further discussion, the commission voted 4-2, with Wilson and commission member Joel Brous opposed and commission member Kevin Rohe absent, to forward the code amendment to the Mayor and Council. Both Wilson and Brous said they had reservations about some of the changes that had been made during Tuesday’s meeting.

“I just don’t know what the implications are,” Wilson said.

The commission this week also voted to forward a code amendment regarding habitable attics to the Mayor and Council with a favorable recommendation. Officials say the amendment would define dormers and attics, revise the definition of building height to allow habitable attic space, and amend the number of required off-street parking spaces.

“I think the suggestion was, with regard to multifamily dwellings, which is the category that these rear-load townhome communities are considered under, that’s where instead of proposing one additional space, we could say one half additional space for any enclosed loft or habitable attic,” Neville said.

With little discussion, the commission voted 6-0, with Rohe absent, to forward the code amendment to the Mayor and Council with a favorable recommendation.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

Alternative Text

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.