Ocean City Today
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Island Wave site plan put on hold by Planning and Zoning

By Greg Ellison | Apr 05, 2018
Photo by: Greg Ellison Attorney Joseph Moore, representing developer Jeff Thaler, presents a site plan for the Island Wave Condominiums, slated for the corner of 125th Street and Assawoman Drive, which the Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday voted to put on hold until parking issues are resolved.

(April 6, 2018) Site plan approval for the Island Wave Condominiums, a seven-unit project proposed on the corner of 125th Street and Assawoman Drive, was delayed by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday while the applicant awaits a decision regarding a minor parking exception.

Concerned about congested parking, residents and business owners spoke against the project at a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on March 22.

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.

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

Zoning Administrator Frank Hall told the commission on Tuesday the site was zoned for six units, but Thaler bought transferable development rights from the beach reserve area to permit an additional condo.

“It meets the height requirements and it does meet the set back requirements,” he said. “The only difference with this … is the use of a TDR … and the request before the Board of Zoning Appeals for a one parking space special exception.”

Commission member Lauren Taylor expressed concerns about the use of transferable development rights.

“This is an open matter [and] I don’t know whether we want to consider this or wait until the Board of Appeals decides on parking,” she said.

Chairwoman Pam Buckley, while in agreement with Taylor’s concerns, still saw merit in hearing the matter that evening.

“If we had a comment we wanted to pass along to the BZA this would give us the opportunity,” she said.

Hall said the site plan review was scheduled before the zoning appeals hearing delay.

“Much of the public was aware … we were going to hear the site plan today,” he said.

Moore told the Planning Commission the applicant is working with City Engineer Terry McGean to authorize revisions for additional parking on 125th Street and Assawoman Drive.

“The parking problem which is at that area is not being exacerbated in any way by our project,” he said. “Literally, if we were to give up a bedroom we would not need the parking exception.”

The project plans include 18 onsite parking spots, while code requires 18.5 spaces, which is rounded to 19.

“In 46 years of doing this I’ve never gone to the Board of Zoning Appeals where I’ve provided 18 spaces and asked for a half space parking exception,” he said.

Moore also noted zoning appeals typically provides considerations for parking exceptions up to 20 percent of requirements.

Taylor debated the impact of extra street parking the project may provide.

“These parking spaces have nothing to do with the project as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “They’re going to be out there for anybody to use.”

Taylor also raised concerns over the number of guests the seven-unit building would attract.

“That’s one of things we’re trying to stop here is residential units being overdone by transient visitors,” she said.

Moore said site plans include two spaces for each unit, with three spots left unreserved.

“Our parking does not stress the neighborhood,” he said. “Existing conditions may stress the neighborhood [but] we are bettering the situation on the street.”

Taylor said the project would clearly create more demand for parking.

“It was already stressed with these buildings not having that many people parking there [and] now you’re going to increase the number of people coming and going from there,” she said.

Moore said Taylor’s statement was not factual.

“If I have parking within my condominium that even complies with the two families per unit, I’m not exacerbating the problem when I’m providing more on street parking,” he said. “The demand we may be creating we are providing for.”

Commission member Palmer Gillis said regardless of complying with parking requirements the neighborhood would still be affected.

Gillis also questioned the inclusion of a two-story 5-bedroom unit, along with four 4-bedroom and two 3-bedroom units.

“Extra people could be crammed in,” he said. “There’s so much opportunity for more sleep capacity it’s not funny.”

If Zoning Appeals grants the parking exception, Gillis asked if the Planning Commission had any recourse.

“If the BZA allows it then this panel is stuck with it … is that correct?” he said.

Buckley provided clarity regarding the final impact.

“No, the neighborhood is stuck with it,” she said.

Moore said if the planning commission had concerns, that conversation should be held in a different forum.

“If there is a problem with the parking exception, or nonconformity [and] if we are compliant with the code, then respectfully, it’s your debate with the mayor and council,” he said. “That’s a debate that you all must have … on text changes.”

Buckley said the commission wants to enhance and protect residential neighborhoods.

“Parking is a major concern [and] you know that,” she said.

With the Zoning Appeals decision looming, Buckley proposed tabling the site plan review until a conclusion is reached.

“If they agree with it there’s nothing we can do,” she said. “If they don’t … then we’ve got other options.”

The Planning Commission plans to revisit site plan approval during its next meeting on April 17, contingent on a ruling from Zoning Appeals.

 

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