*Building height-example-Nowalk.jpg

A rendering shows how a proposed change to the way building heights are measured could affect the six-unit Nowalk to the Boardwalk structure on Somerset Street.

Would encourage off-street parking, assist flood protection

In the name of flood protection and off-street parking incentives, Ocean City officials are considering a zoning code change that could allow for taller buildings downtown.

At a joint meeting on Dec. 13, City Council members and members of the Planning Commission discussed allowing building height measurements to begin from the elevated first floor above ground level parking in the downtown and upper downtown overlay districts.

The concept, which is an extension of a change that passed last December that required measurement from the minimum freeboard elevation, would allow developers to construct buildings with ground level parking without having to sacrifice occupancy space.

After a short discussion, council members unanimously voted to direct staff members to draft a proposed code amendment for the change and forward it to planning commissioners for review and recommendation.

“I think it would be a welcomed addition to try to get some parking under the buildings and allow some relief to get some people above the flood plain,” Councilman Peter Baus said of the working amendment. “I think it’s the encouragement that the developer needs to do that.”

The concept began to take shape in November 2021 after council members approved a code change, in response to a Federal Emergency Management Agency order, requiring buildings to have 1 foot of freeboard above base elevations. Freeboard is the space between the lowest floor and the minimum base flood elevation.

From there, council members modified the code to require building heights to be measured from the top of the freeboard, or base of the first floor. The latest potential change would raise the measurement spot even higher.

This story appears in the Dec. 23, 2022 print edition of the OC Today.

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