As Ocean City Lifts Homes, New Guidelines Emerge
City Council passes the first reading of an amended zoning ordinance designed to help owners rebuild after Sandy.
In a world a little farther above sea level, nothing seems to fit.
As homeowners and contractors begin to consider elevating homes to meet new guidelines for flood safety, stairs would stretch into side yards and a host of other zoning issues would be raised along with the homes.
City Council on Thursday passed the first reading of an amended ordinance drafted to help homeowners rebuild in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which struck on Oct. 29 and left Ocean City buried under record flood levels.
The ordinance was designed "to quickly address zoning issues in the new world of ABFE maps," City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson told City Council.
New Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) maps require substantially damaged homes to be rebuilt at higher elevations — in many cases dramatically higher elevations.
The ordinance is intended to help homeowners displaced by the storm quickly rebuild.
"The city would be flooded with zoning applications for minor issues," McCrosson said.
The ordinance (see attached PDF for the full text and an explanation of the changes) includes detailed revisions to zoning guidelines.
Buildings with nonconforming setbacks, for instance, would be allowed to elevate without variance approval.
The draft ordinance was distributed to council members only shortly before Thursday's meeting, and that led to a discussion of concerns about carefully considering the lasting impact of the changes.
Part of the debate centered on the definition of floor area ratio (FAR), a measure that helps determine the maximum allowable size of homes.
Crawl spaces (but not garages/carports) would be excluded from the FAR calculations under the proposed ordinance.
But that provision could discourage property owners from using space under newly elevated homes for parking cars — a potential solution to summer parking problems on the streets.
"Let's find the silver lining," Councilman Tony Wilson said of the opportunity to use the new elevation requirements to alleviate the parking problem.
City Council passed the ordinance, 5-0 (Councilmen Scott Ping and Mike DeVlieger were absent) with minor revisions. The second and potentially final reading of the ordinance is scheduled for March 14. The ordinance is the first of what likely will be attempts to address several other "mechanical issues" in the landscape of the new flood requirements.