Ocean City Today

Game World conditional use permit tweaked

By Greg Ellison | Feb 22, 2018
Photo by: Greg Ellison Game World and Buccaneer’s Booty Mini Golf on 146th Street received concessions from conditions applied by the Planning Commission for an amended conditional use permit during the City Council meeting on Tuesday.

(Feb. 23, 2018) Assuring that proper approval procedures are followed was the primary concern raised by City Solicitor Guy Ayres during a discussion of the proposed expansion at Game World and Buccaneer’s Booty Mini Golf on 146th Street during the City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Zoning Administrator Frank Hall said the initial step in the multi-phased project involves amending the current conditional use permit, which, after an extended discussion, the council approved.

“The planning commission did review and make a favorable recommendation for the conditional use application,” he said.

Additionally, Hall said the planning commission is scheduled to review the project site plan on Wednesday, contingent on council approval that evening.

Applicant Nolen Graves has proposed a three-phased project to expand the business’s existing structures westward towards Sinepuxent Avenue. The plans include constructing a new building to house an additional 18-hole golf course and building an additional parking lot south of 145th Street on land purchased from St. Andrews and St. Luke’s Catholic Church.

When the planning commission approved the amended conditional use permit in mid-January, it included conditions that Graves’ attorney, Regan Smith, asked the council to revise.

“The project will be phased so the number of parking spaces can accommodate need rather than be built all at once,” he said.

Smith also took issue with a planning commission recommendation mandating each building have one supervisory employee age 21 or older, as well as a restriction from using outdoor music or flashing lights.

The request sparked concern from Ayres, who asked if adjacent neighbors had been notified and noted the council was not holding a public hearing that evening.

“If they want a change in the recommendations … they need to go back to the planning commission,” he said. “I don’t see anyway to short circuit that.”

Hall said the current issue related to property use not actual site design issues.

“How does this council know the recommendations from the planning commission would be same if they haven’t heard the changes they want?” Ayres asked.

Smith said his client’s principal request was for approval to phase in parking requirements as the expansion occurs.

“We’re asking for clarification, not changes,” he said.

Ayres said Smith was, in fact, asking the council to consider changes to the commission’s recommendations.

“If they recommend it not be changed, the council needs to know,” he said. “I just think you jumped ahead of yourself.”

Councilman John Gehrig questioned the procedural issues at play.

“We get recommendations from commissions all the time and we don’t necessarily just say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” he said.

Ayres reiterated his earlier point concerning the need for an advertised public hearing.

“Anyone impacted has the opportunity to come in person or write for or against,” he said. “They imposed a condition that he wants to remove.”

Gehrig said the projects proposed phases would be submitted with subsequent site plan applications.

“The question comes up where does common sense stop and we have to send everything back to planning and zoning,” he said.

Although the ultimate decision lies with council, Ayres said been abuses had occurred in the past.

“The applicant would come and put on half a show before the planning commission and then come before the mayor and City Council and retry the issue,” he said.

Councilman Matt James voiced support for eliminating the supervisory employee age requirement and the flashing light restriction.

Councilman Dennis Dare agreed with James but raised another concern about the parking expansion on a vacant parcel on the southeast corner of 145th Street and Sinepuxent Avenue, due to its proximity to the 144th Street Transit Center.

“I’d like to see that closed and not have ingress and regress there,” he said. “We have 60 buses running at times through there in the summer. I don’t think we should have cars running through there.”

Dare also proposed placing a crosswalk on the corner of 145th Street.

“That’s where drivers expect to have that interface with pedestrians,” he said. “All the city buses come through that street and it’s another point of conflict for them.”

Gehrig also chimed in against the supervisor age requirement.

“Are we suppose to go in there and card the supervisors?” he said. “Are we really getting involved in staffing?”

Ayres said councilmembers could make alterations to the planning commission findings.

“You can accept recommendations with limits or modifications you deem more appropriate,” he said. “What we don’t do is turn this into another public hearing.”

James then made a motion to strike the supervisory age limits and outdoor music or lighting restrictions.

Councilman Wayne Hartman agreed, while adding a motion for City Engineer Terry McGean to examine the viability of adding a crosswalk or stop sign to accompany expanded parking on 145th Street. The council voted unanimously, with Council Secretary Mary Knight absent, to approve the amended conditional use permit.

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