Resort Planners, Staff Talk Off-Street Parking Recommendations

Resort Planners, Staff Talk Off-Street Parking Recommendations
Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – A member of a resort commission last week shared his growing frustration with the Mayor and Council regarding off-street parking recommendations, but officials say a joint meeting could address those issues.

In early November, the Mayor and Council voted to send the Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommended code amendment regarding off-street parking back to the commission for revisions. During last week’s commission meeting, Commissioner Palmer Gillis noted it was the second such recommendation on off-street parking to be sent back.

“I guess the question is, after taking three years of testimony and public hearings and discussions and having two separate councils tell planning and zoning commissions to come up with similar recommendations, can they just tell us what they want us to do instead of us wasting our time?” he said.

Last year, the planning commission presented the Mayor and Council with a code amendment that would have, if passed, required developers to provide enclosed two-vehicle garages for each multi-family housing unit and require property owners to use those garage spaces for their intended purpose. Essentially, the goal of the code amendment was to address the lack of sufficient off-street parking and the proliferation of garage spaces being used as a storage area, necessitating more parking on the town’s public streets.

At that time, however, the council removed the commission’s proposed amendment without discussion, causing a rift between the two bodies. And at a joint session last December, the council ultimately agreed to remand the issue back to staff to explore and make recommendations on garage parking space sizes.

Last month, the commission agreed to forward a new code amendment on off-street parking to the Mayor and Council with a favorable recommendation. As proposed, the amendment would change the dimensions of enclosed parking spaces on lots greater than 50 feet wide to 10-by-21 feet deep. The amendment would also require a five-foot driveway apron and changes to off-street parking for multifamily dwellings. Two-and-a-half parking spaces would be required for each three-bedroom unit, with a minimum of one space being unenclosed.

In the weeks that followed, however, the council voted to send the new code amendment back to the commission. Councilman Peter Buas, who made the motion, argued the proposed changes went above and beyond what was instructed of the commission.

“Right now, the recommendation is very different from what the instructions were,” he said at the time.

Last week, Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville told commission members their recommendations on off-street parking had been sent back. He said the council had shared concerns that the commission’s version of the code amendment did not align with what was discussed in last year’s joint meeting.

“There’s a specific request for the planning commission to perhaps reconsider the recommendation you had made at the time, to limit your recommendation only to the size and dimension of parking spaces and nothing else …,” he explained. “You might want to schedule that for further discussion at your next meeting.”

For his part, Gillis said two separate planning commissions had made similar off-street parking recommendations to the Mayor and Council. He argued the commission was wasting its time.

“Can they tell us what they want us to do, so they can rubberstamp what they want us to do?” he said.

Neville, however, encouraged the commission to keep going. He said ongoing issues regarding off-street parking recommendations could be discussed further at a joint meeting scheduled for January.

“I was pleased to see the city manager has thrown out a possible third joint meeting date at the end of January for consideration …,” he said. I think there’s a desire and intent to schedule that.”

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.