The Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals approved setback variances for the Lankford Hotel on Atlantic Avenue and the Boardwalk, as it prepares to raze its current property and redevelop it. 

(July 17, 2020) An almost century-old beach hotel is on its way to a total replacement, following the Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals’ approval last Thursday of setback variance requests made by the Lankford Hotel on the Boardwalk. 

Plans are to raze the existing structure and in its place build a 76-room, two-suite hotel. 

Zoning Administrator Kay Gordy began the hearing by dismissing a 23-parking space waiver request, as density calculations found it to be unnecessary. 

The more important decision to be made that night involved the setbacks. 

“The decision that you’ll need to make is whether this should be considered under the variance criteria or under the exception criteria [for] the special yard exceptions,” Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville said. 

He later added, “To me, one of the differences between the two is that a variance is typically very unique to that property. The special yard exception is a more generalized option available to other properties.”  

Attorney Joe Moore, who represented the applicant, said his client was seeking an area variance, rather than a special yard exception. 

He addressed the elevated deck setback and presented multiple photos of neighboring properties, all of which had elevated decks. 

 “Our request, even if we did not have nonconformity, which we enjoy, is not out of character with properties that are along the Boardwalk,” he said. 

Further, architect Heather Morrison testified that the elevated deck was needed, as the space underneath the main structure would house an underground parking garage — which she stated would have an excess of parking spaces, 80 to be exact.  

She also explained that the length of the front ramp had been designed to allow for an incline that would not exceed a 5 percent slope, which is in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

“Only for two and a half levels [of the structure] are you actually on the property line,” Morrison said, adding that the redevelopment would not cause any harm to adjacent properties. 

The owner of an adjacent property contested this setback argument, but a board member noted that this property had also benefited from setback allowances.  

“Your client got to take full advantage of, instead of a 32-foot setback, a 20-foot setback,” the board member said to the opposing attorney. “Your client has also enjoyed the benefits of the different zoning.” 

After a lengthy discussion, the board voted to address the requests as a variance, rather than a special yard exception, with the conditions that the elevation of the deck within the front yard setback is limited to no more than 48 inches above the Boardwalk; design of steps, ramp system, wall and planting areas were to meet design criteria of the upper downtown district; no signs shall be permitted on foundation walls; and that the site development will be in substantial conformance with the submitted architectural drawings. 

 To view the staff report for the hotel visit

Josh covers everything Ocean City government and crime. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 2019 with a B.A. in French and Journalism.

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