(Dec. 7, 2018) The Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission fine-tuned language for a trio of zoning code revisions related to nonconforming parking determinations, transfers of development rights and accessory building uses for commercial development projects during its meeting on Tuesday.
Zoning Administrator Frank Hall presented the latest round of staff-initiated code amendments intended to codify department policies and practices.
The first proposed revision would restrict development projects from using transferable development rights to increase base density to obtain a special exception for required parking.
Ocean City’s transferable development right program seeks to foster development in areas approved in the comprehensive plan while discouraging development in the environmentally sensitive beach transfer overlay districts, which involve the building limit line.
After broaching the topic during a recent work session, Hall said additional language was inserted to eliminate variations within different sections of code.
“Oftentimes people will go to one section of code and not look at another,” he said. “If you’re going to transfer a development right, you should park it fully.”
Commission Chairwoman Pam Buckley said base density needs to be factored in before exceptions are granted.
“It’s like double dipping … when you’re just increasing density and we’re already making units bigger with more bedrooms,” she said.
The commission also examined language revisions to clarify permitted internal and external uses for attached commercial accessory buildings and required parking calculations.
“This discussion came out of the concerns over two restaurants that were unattached and accessory to the Fairfield Hotel on 25th Street,” he said. “We came up with definitions that correspond to residential accessory use … now we have to come up with a sister language for accessory commercial use.”
Hall said the words, “within or attached,” were inserted to assure required parking calculations for accessory structures not meeting that criteria would be based on the sum of uses.
“Internally attached to means the restaurant could be outside but have a common wall and you can get to it through a lobby or … a parking lot entrance,” he said.
The third area of code language discussed involves determination of nonconforming use for a structure or lot and related parking calculations.
Hall noted although he is permitted to make decisions about requests for determination of nonconformity if potential contention exist, the matter is typically sent to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
“When determination of nonconformity for parking is also used in conjunction with a transferable development right then we’re getting back to that double dipping issue,” he said.
Hall said following an earlier discussion on the topic code revisions were written to limit a determination of nonconformity for parking for the portion of a development project that is similar in bulk, density and intensity of the original structures.
“A change in use or increase in density greater than the original use must meet the full parking requirement for the new use or additional density,” he said.
Although satisfied with wording for the first pair of code revisions, the commission voted for Hall and Attorney William Esham III to further tweak language for determination of nonconforming uses and revive the discussion at a subsequent meeting.
The text amendment process starts with a Planning and Zoning public hearing, with the subsequent transcript and supporting documents then forwarded to the mayor and council for consideration during another public hearing.