(May 3, 2019) Plans for a new resort water treatment plant continued to move forward last Thursday, as the board of zoning appeals granted a setback reduction to Advance Marine, further clearing the way for a planned land swap.

The request was part of the city’s larger plan to consolidate land near 66th Street for future use as a water treatment plant and other public works use.

In order to do so, the city and Wenzlaff Family LLLP that runs Advance Marine are in the process of swapping parcels of land that would provide the city more space for its new facilities, and also help Advance Marine to expand its operations.

The Ocean City Planning Commission on April 16 forwarded a unanimous recommendation to the mayor and City Council to rezone several parcels of land between 66th and 67th street, from LC-1, Local Commercial District, to BMUD, or Bayside Mixed Use District, to allow for both projects.

Zoning Administrator Frank Hall last Thursday asked the board of zoning appeals to reduce side yard setback requirements for a future four-story Advance Marine boat rack building to five feet. Town code requires buildings over three stories to have at least a 10-foot setback.

“The applicant is working with the Town of Ocean City, and vice versa, for an entire site redesign of this location,” Hall said. “The idea is that they’re working together to consolidate lots [and] move things around for their facility, the marine use, as well as the city’s future water treatment plant and other facilities that [Public Works Director] Hal [Adkins] is planning for the Town of Ocean City, so it’s a cooperative effort between the two parties.”

Frank Hall

Zoning Administrator Frank Hall speaks during a recent Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals meeting. 

Hall said the setback variance was crucial in order to make everything work for the Wenzlaff Family.

“It may only be five feet, but when you’re talking about … making turns with boats on forklifts and storing boats just the right way, every inch matters.

Hall added special exceptions for a setback variance could be granted if similar allowances had been granted for contiguous lots.

“In the past, the Wenzlaff’s were granted a variance … for other four-story boat racks, just like they’re asking today,” he said. “They have multiple locations that do not meet the setback requirement, which allows them to have that special yard exception request.”

If everything goes according to current plans, the expanded Advance Marine compound would neighbor the city’s new water treatment plant.

“This is a partnership … between the town and the Wenzlaff Family to make the site most efficient for both parties,” Hall said. “Staff believes that it’s an appropriate request and would respectfully request a favorable motion.”

Board Chairman Alfred Harrison asked if the reduced setback would meet fire code.

According to Hall, “the fire marshal typically likes to see 10 feet between structures,” which there would be in total, with five-foot setbacks on either side of two lot lines, “so there will end up being 10 feet between structures.”

A public hearing was closed without further comment and the board of zoning appeals voted 3-0 to approve the request. 

Josh Davis is an MDDC award-winning editor and reporter at the Bayside Gazette and Ocean City Today newspapers, covering Berlin and Ocean Pines, Maryland. He is the author of three novels, including 'Vanishing is the Last Art' (2012). He lives in Berlin.

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