Pam Buckley

Planning Commission Chairwoman Pam Buckley

(Feb. 12, 2021) Looking to address long-term concerns about redevelopment in the resort, the Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduling a work session to examine regulations involving building and site plan allowances known as non-conforming uses.

Commission Chairwoman Pam Buckley, who raised the matter during the group’s Feb. 2 meeting, said past attempts to discuss pyramidal zoning, nonconformity and change of use provisions with the City Council and Board of Zoning Appeals have thus far failed.

“The two concerns right now are pyramidal zoning [and] change of use [with] parking,” she said.

Pyramidal zoning is a policy that allows a property to be developed according to its “highest and best use,” as in allowing a high-end condominium complex to be built on a parcel zoned for industrial use. In Ocean City, that means residential uses sit at the top of the zoning pyramid.

Nonconformity allowances permit previously approved conditions to be maintained for subsequent re-development regardless of regulation revisions.

Commission member Peck Miller agreed the issue was long overdue for discussion.

“I think right now non-conformity is our biggest issue by far,” he said.

Commission member Lauren Taylor said the city’s zoning code language regardomg “change of use” is convoluted.

“It’s definitely something we need to clarify,” she said.

Buckley’s concerns about pyramidal zoning are being prompted by redevelopment trends.

“We’re only a 10-mile town [that’s] 99 percent developed [and] now we’re redeveloping,” she said. “There’s a lot more consequence now on things being redeveloped than in past.”

Miller suggested the commission assess the use of non-conformity to develop reasonable standards.

“Maybe applying conditional use permits to that would allow us to at least have a reference for each as we come to it,” he said.

Commission member Joe Wilson asked if the zoning considerations should be vetted initially with the mayor and City Council prior to holding an internal work session.

“These are all items we need to discuss … but I think getting them involved earlier rather than later would behoove us,” he said. “Otherwise we’re just spinning our wheels.”

Miller agreed the matters should be brought before both the City Council and Board of Zoning Appeals to reach consensus.

“I think the sooner we talk about nonconformity in a meeting with everybody at least it’s going to shed light on where we’re going,” he said.

Pointing out that having staff compile relevant documentation would take upwards of a month, Buckley said early-March would be the soonest that any conversations could convene.

“Nonconformity and change of use will take care of a lot, especially with parking issues,” she said.

The commission agreed to ask the staff to prepare related information and schedule a work session when all members are available. 

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