(Jan. 8, 2021) The Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission conducted an online meeting with attorney Regan Smith and architect Jeff Schoellkopf on Tuesday night to discuss proposed amendment options for the Sanibel Seas condominium project.
The proposed townhouses, to be known as Sanibel Sea, would encompass a swath of land on the west side of Coastal Highway and the east side of Sinepuxent Avenue between 144th and 145th streets.
The original site plan was approved on May 19, 2020.
Members of the Ocean City Board of Zoning of Appeals were invited to listen to the discussion, but because the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting was not advertised as a joint meeting an open conversation could not take place.
“Unless they want to just speak as individuals and not on behalf of the BZA,” said Bill Neville, director of planning and community development.
Schoellkopf said the project currently has nine duplexes. The revised site plan shows 15 duplexes.
“So, it’s essentially the same plan with just smaller spacing, a little bit less parking and more broken up,” Schoellkopf said.
Smith said many people have been requesting home offices, especially during the pandemic. Home offices could be created in some of the 36-foot units by moving the door to one side.
“We know that the planning staff and everybody has always treated a home office as a bedroom,” Smith said. “At the moment, we have the seven four-bedroom and the remaining three-bedroom units of the total 59 that are approved. It’s a code compliant project as requested, so we have the approved site plan that you all approved.”
He added that the duplexes do not change the number of units or the footprint of the units, but it does increase the parking requirement because the units are transformed to multi-family units from townhouses.
Schoellkopf said additional parking requirements are not actually required, but the parking spaces between the buildings in the approved site plan will be lost in the revised plan.
“We’re not asking for approval of this plan at this point,” he added. “We know that to do this we need to go to the BZA and ask for a reduction of the spacing between buildings from the required 10 feet to a 6-foot minimum, and we know we need to ask for a parking exception in order to do this.”
He defended the design, saying the neighborhood has a lot of available street parking, even during in-season.
In addition, Schoellkopf said breaking up the buildings will allow the roofs to turn in.
The developer is interested in retaining 59 units for the multi-family condominium project as well as the large green space in the center, rather than using it for parking.
Schoellkopf said the parking space reduction would be about 10 percent of the standard.
Responding to Commission member Peck Miller, Schoellkopf said if the project retained the seven four-bedrooms, a parking exception of 9 spaces would be necessary.
Although the commission favored greater separation of the units, the greater concern was about more parking reductions.
Commission members argued that car garages will likely be used for storage rather than parking spaces if the units are residential and not rentals. There was also concern that there are not driveways in front of the garages.
Miller and Commission member Palmer Gillis said the parking issue is intensified by the possible inclusion of home offices, which are fourth bedrooms and would require more parking spaces.
Schoellkopf replied that the city code is not clear about the definition of a bedroom versus a nook for an office space.
The main purpose of the discussion was for clarification of codes and to respond to requests previously made at a hearing, Schoellkopf said.
Commission member Chris Shanahan and Gillis agreed that the revised plan is a better product.
“We all agree that the separation of making it a duplex is a better architectural design, it’s a better marketing design, it’ll probably add more value to the unit,” Gillis said.
The next step is to have the revised plan approved by the planning commission, even if the board of zoning of appeals approves the parking exceptions.