Ocean City Today

Half parking spot raises ire

By Greg Ellison | Mar 29, 2018

(March 30, 2018) Concerned about congested parking, residents and business owners spoke out against a proposed seven-unit condominium building on 125th Street and Assawoman Drive at a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting last Thursday.

Attorney Joseph Moore, representing developer Jeff Thaler, was requesting a special exception for half a parking space, which subsequently evolved into a two-plus hour deliberation.

“I don’t remember coming before the board for what amounts to a half-space parking exception but we’re here,” he said.

Moore told the board the applicant had withdrawn an initial application for the Island Wave Condominium last month and reconfigured plans for a 10,000 square-foot building to encompass two lots on the northwest corner of Assawoman Drive and 125th Street.

Moore said the revised site plan includes four 4-bedroom units, two 3-bedroom units, and a two-story 5-bedroom unit, along with 18 onsite parking spaces.

Zoning Administrator Frank Hall said the revised plans would require 20.5 onsite parking spaces, including a dozen for the four-bedroom units, five for the pair of three-bedroom units and 3.5 spaces for the five-bedroom unit.

As part of his second application, Hall said Thaler paid to have a determination of nonconformity for parking conducted at the site to look for existing conditions not in compliance with current codes.

“I believe there is a two-space nonconformity for that site based on today’s code standard,” Hall said.

Among the factors Hall used to reach that determination was the current two-space parking requirement for the existing three-bedroom single-family house on the one developed lot.

Due to the existing home, Hall said the applicant was initially unaware there was an option to request a determination of nonconformity.

The nonconformity finding drops the required onsite parking to 18.5, which rounds up to 19, Hall said.

“So they still need a one spot waiver,” he said. “One of the concerns is a loss of parking in the community.”

Hall also specified the waiver applied to onsite, as opposed to street parking, which is beyond the purview of zoning appeals.

Moore said the redevelopment plans would result in a net gain for adjacent street parking.

Thaler said the property had been donated to the Salvation Army by the estate of the original owners.

“The Salvation Army is considered a church [and] has not been paying any taxes to city,” he said. “Once this condo is built there will be tax revenue to the city, plus impact fees for seven units in Ocean City.”

Speaking in opposition was Attorney Dirk Widdowson, representing the Cayman Suites Hotel, 12500 Coastal Highway, who initially objected to Hall’s determination of parking nonconformity as arbitrary and non-fact based.

Moore quickly objected and said the zoning administrator’s decision is not appealable to the board.

Widdowson argued the request would increase a nonconformity, which is prohibited by code, and characterized the project as a change of use, which would result in a loss of prior nonconformities.

“They’re asking you to believe that changing from a single-family residence to a multi-family residence is not a change of use,” he said.

Earlier in the hearing, Hall said the site was zoned for six units, but Thaler bought transferable development rights from the beach reserve area to permit an additional condo.

“The seventh unit is a TDR,” Hall said. “Two development rights from the beach reserve area were purchased in order to acquire one additional development right on the site.”

In addition to questioning the size of numerous onsite parking spaces, Widdowson said the community would be negatively affected by a loss of perpendicular parking spots along Assawoman Drive.

“No one … would have any objection to building what should be built there,” he said. “That’s a six-unit with parking that would be contained on the property with no exceptions.”

Zoning Appeals Board Chairman Alfred Harrison, said applicant was not being credited for changes to street parking.

“Lets stay focused on the on-site parking request for half a spot,” he said.

Cayman Suites co-owner Mary Tawney Eastman, objected to the parking exception application.

“I believe we should be 100 percent code compliant,” she said. “I have a 57-unit hotel with 57 spots.”

While professing admiration for the building design, Eastman questioned the vehicular impact.

“What we’re putting in here is a 27-bedroom hotel,” she said.

Neighbor Joseph Jankowski was troubled by the logistics of the space distinction.

“This exception they’re asking for is for half a car … where do you park a half a car?” he said.

Jankowski, a fulltime resident who purchased his property in the 1970s, admitted the proposal struck an aesthetical emotional chord.

“You’re putting a monstrosity on the corner that’s going to change the whole complex of the block,” he said. “It is no longer going to be old Ocean City. That may sound silly, but that’s the feeling that I have.”

In closing Harrison noted if the site was not sold to Thaler, the Salvation Army might have offered proposals of a far different nature.

“[There] could have been some uses that I could see a lot of people coming down here to object to,” he said. “This is simply another multi-family residential building, which that property is zoned for.”

The board left the hearing open based on a request from a number of adjacent nonresident property owners who were unable to attend due to inclement weather. Additional testimony will be permitted at the boards April 12 meeting.

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