Margaritaville rendering-4.jpg

A rendering of a massive planned Margaritaville Resort at the site of the former Phillips Beach Plaza Hotel on 13th and 14th streets shows the view of the slated project from the Boardwalk.

A considerable amount of time and more approvals will be needed before anyone can waste away at a proposed Margaritaville resort in upper downtown Ocean City.

For the third time this month, members of the city’s planning and zoning commission on Tuesday discussed details of the massive project developers hope to build on the shuttered Phillips Beach Plaza property lots on 13th and 14th streets. And like every other meeting so far, no formal vote was taken.

Planning commissioners are tasked with setting requirements for a planned overlay district, or POD, which is the first of several approvals developers need to proceed with the project. The zoning designation allows for “unified development” of a parcel and more flexibility in design.

Once the commissioners have gathered all the information they need, they send their recommendation for action to be taken to the council, which makes the final decision.

At a Nov. 3 public hearing, the developers unveiled the details of the plans and answered countless questions. On Nov. 9, planning commissioners waded through the information and came up with more than eight possible conditions they believed could be needed for POD’s approval.

The conditions included ensuring that the approval is only for the specific project, requiring valet parking for all guest vehicles, setting the types of retail stores that are permitted, only granting the POD if the square footage equals 90,000 (a condition of the rezoning), and following up with the developer’s promise to offer an employee shuttle program or employee parking.

Developers have said that the project plans include building employee housing at an off-site, walkable location, however the parking details are still fuzzy.

On Tuesday, the commissioners discussed several more conditions such as including a 15-foot setback along Baltimore Avenue, the definition of accessory stores for the proposed retail area, waiving the parking requirements for the stores, and requiring valet parking.

They talked about the density of the project as well, with four commissioners stating that they are on board with a proposal for 13 stories and 267 units, while the other three said they would like to see the number of units reduced to 222.

In any case, the commissioners cast no formal votes Tuesday. They opted to wait for the council’s vote on whether to abandon a 16-foot city-owned alley, known as Washington Lane, that is needed to meet the square footage requirement for the POD.

The developer plans to incorporate the space into complex’s design and replaced it with a 23-foot public easement with two travel lanes and one bicycle lane.

Council members are set to discuss the request at a Nov. 30 work session and vote on it later.

According to a staff report, city employees recommend that council members approve the alley abandonment, because the city “has no direct need” for the right-of-way for utilities, and that the creation of a wider public easement “would improve the alley’s primary function as a public way.”

The current plans for the project call for a 13-story, 265-room hotel brandishing the famous Margaritaville label, 20,000 square feet of upscale retail space, three restaurants, multiple swimming pools, meeting and conference areas, and more. City staff members anticipate it will stand out significantly at the confluence of the more historic buildings in southern Ocean City, and newer high rises to the north.

And while the project’s beauty and the development team’s professionalism and attention to detail have been commended throughout the process so far, concerns about parking, traffic patterns, size of the retail area and more have cast some shadows.

This story appears in the print edition of the OC Today on Nov. 26.

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