Commentary

printed 06/14/2019

It was back in 1960 that the American Planning Association published an informational item that declared pyramidal zoning might not be the wonderful idea everyone thought it was.

The problem, the authors said, was that it engendered conflict between “good” uses of property and “bad” uses of property, an assertion that referenced the accepted practice of allowing residential development in areas zoned for less desired uses, such as commercial, business and, in rare cases, industrial.

In other words, the planning experts of 59 years ago recommended rethinking a zoning approach that Ocean City still employs today.

City Councilman Dennis Dare, who last year expressed his concern about the displacement of commercial properties by residential development, reiterated that point this week.

In light of the continued decline of the resort’s commercial sector, Dare called for greater protection of these properties, and suggested that the current practice of allowing residential projects to go just about anywhere be tempered by making proposed undertakings of that nature subject to the special exception rule.

In other words, the developer of a condominium project proposed for a commercial area would have to prove that it would not interfere with its neighbors’ use of their properties.

That’s a good idea, assuming city government wants to stanch the flow of businesses to the other side of the bay, but making it happen won’t be easy unless the City Council decides to take a much tougher position than it did when property owners in R-1 single-family zones tried and failed to prevent the proliferation of weekly rentals in their neighborhoods.

Dare will have to argue, as the authors of that planning association article did almost six decades ago, that city officials need to see “that the zoning ordinance, to the extent possible under the law, encourages the proper functioning of each class of land use.”

Or we can just not worry about it and see what happens.

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