Council Passes Zoning Relief for Rising Homes
An amended ordinance addresses minor zoning issues for property owners elevating homes.
City Council on Thursday gave final approval to an ordinance designed "to quickly address zoning issues in the new world of ABFE maps."
That's how City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson on March 1 summarized the intent of detailed zoning amendments intended to help homeowners displaced by Superstorm Sandy quickly rebuild. (See attached PDF for full text of the amended ordinance.)
ABFE stands for "Advisory Base Flood Elevation" and guides the first-floor elevations required for new or substantially rebuilt homes, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency flood map under development.
With homes required to be substantially elevated, a variety of issues regarding building guidelines have arisen.
"The city would be flooded with zoning applications for minor issues," McCrosson said.
Buildings with nonconforming setbacks, for instance, would be allowed to elevate without variance approval.
Property owners who elevate would not be required to reapply for bulk or setback variances. But properties with nonconforming uses would, according to McCrosson.
Other attempts to address "mechanical issues" in the landscape of the new flood requirements are in the works, according to the city administration.
While the ordinance passed on Thursday includes language that defines garages as part of inhabitable space (part of a calculation that helps determine overall building size), the Ocean City Planning Board will consider the issue and make a recommendation on regulating building size while encouraging off-street parking.
"As long as these buildings have to be up, park the cars under the building," architect and consulting engineer Michael Hyland told City Council, echoing something council members had already discussed and agreed.