Ocean City Today

Proposed sushi joint killed by parking variance request

By Greg Ellison | Mar 29, 2018
Photo by: Greg Ellison Attorney Joe Moore, representing South Moon Under founder Frank Gunion, left, who owns the Goose Creek Shopping Center, presents a parking variance request for a proposed sushi restaurant at the 81st Street location, which was ultimately denied by the Board of Zoning Appeals last Thursday.

(March 30, 2018) A lack of parking was the deal breaker for a proposed mid-town sushi restaurant last Thursday, when the Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals decided that a request to drop 17 of 72 required parking spaces was too much to ask.

Attorney Joe Moore, representing Goose Creek Inc., presented the request for the variance at the 81st Street shopping center, which has been owned by South Moon Under founder Frank Gunion since the late 1970s.

Gunion told the board the property was developed in three phases, the most recent of which was in 1989.

“Since then, the footprint has not expanded,” he said.

Moore argued the proposed sushi restaurant’s hours of operation would run opposite of the Fractured Prune location in the shopping center, which closes by noon.

Gunion also said the South Moon Under store there had previously housed more staff.

“We had corporate offices on the upper floor,” he said. “We relocated to Berlin [and] that area on the second floor is substantially unused.”

The idea for the sushi bar was proposed by Sophia Christian, who said the 70-plus- seat operation likely would be open from 4 p.m. to midnight, year-round.

Gunion estimated between the parking allocated for the Fractured Prune, and the spots previously used for South Moon Under corporate offices, about 17 fewer spaces would be required.

Several neighboring operators, including Garvey Heiderman, who owns the Hobbit Restaurant at the end of the street, opposed the variance.

“I’m not trying to shoot down somebody’s hopes and dreams in opening up a space … but it just doesn’t make any sense to add to this space,” he said.

In addition to accommodating diners, food establishments have larger staffs than average retail stores in season, and that only exacerbates the search for parking, Heiderman said.

He added that if the sushi bar opened with less than the requisite parking, he would need to hire additional staff to monitor his parking area. That, he said, would not benefit the tourist experience.

“When you’re on vacation, the last thing you want is for some 16-year-old kid to [say] you can’t park there,” he said.

Also speaking against the proposal was Linda Hickerson, Bay Princess Condominium Association president, who said misappropriated parking is already an issue.

“People will pull into our lot thinking they can go wherever they want,” she said.

Hickerson said her entire 83-member condo association voted against the parking variance request.

“We have had to tow on numerous occasions,” she said. “Their dining experience becomes very expensive when I have them towed and they add that $200 plus dollar fee.”

Christian wondered what type of message the board would be sending to others aspiring to open businesses in Ocean City.

“The opposition I’m hearing … does steer some people away from opening a business in Ocean City,” she said. “We’d like to move forward if we can.”

Nevertheless, the board voted 5-0 to reject the proposal

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