Public on Master Plan: O.C. Getting Too Dense and Intense
The Planning Board solicited public comment at a meeting Oct. 3 at the library.
About 30 members of the public attended a Planning Board meeting on Wednesday night at the Ocean City Free Public Library to offer input on the city's "Master Plan," a document that attempts to bring order to the city's growth and development.
With about 20,000 properties crammed onto an island of about seven square miles, the quality of life of existing residents was a common theme.
Planning Board member Marc Shuster made an impromptu statement before public comment that seemed to reflect many of the statements that would follow.
Acknowledging that he was a leader in the effort to define a new Hospitality Zone catered to commerce and visitors, Shuster urged the board to redouble its efforts to serve year-round residents.
"This potential increase in density and intensity (in the Hospitality Zone) must be countered by serious efforts to reduce them elsewhere in order to maintain a reasoned and reasonable balance which serves the entire populace in its impacts: social, economic, physical and aesthetic," Shuster said. "Only then can the Planning Board be said to have fulfilled its role as guardian of the principles of our Master Plan ..."
A planner with 40 years experience in more than 40 municipalities, Shuster expressed frustration with being asked to meet with the Ocean City Board of Realtors, Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Hotel-Motel Association to discuss the board's developing plans for the Hospitality Zone.
"This was the first time in my entire career that such a proposal had to consent to the input and approval of a Realtor group and a chamber of commerce," Shuster said.
Urging the board to keep growth in check — from higher roofs to new apartments and duplexes — several members of the public echoed Shuster's sentiments.
Speaking for the Ocean City Community Association, Curt Gronert read a resolution that the community group passed on Saturday:
"OCCA strongly supports the Master Plan Re-Examination Report insofar as it includes in its goals and objectives those that encourage single-family development, the lessening of density and improving stormwater and tidal floodwater management. It opposes any proposals that seek to increase: unit density, the intensity of uses, or the proportion of two- and three-family buildings in the city."
Bill McMahon, president of the McMahon Agency, asked the board to maintain its support for a higher "base-flood elevation" requirement. The Master Plan update proposes requiring new homes to be constructed so the first floor of living space is two feet above the level of a 100-year flood.
Some have criticized the new requirement because it would also raise height limits for roofs. But McMahon said adherence to the new elevations could help Ocean City preserve its standing in the National Flood Insurance Program that it relies on.
"We went through five years of trying to get the flood program renewed," McMahon said. "The program for Ocean City is vital."
The Planning Board is in the final stages of the re-examination process, mandated by state law, that asks a community to evaluate how well its Master Plan and existing zoning regulations fit current land use conditions.
Ocean City’s current comprehensive master plan was adopted in 1988 and most recently re-examined and amended in 2006.
A final public hearing and potential vote by the Planning Board on adopting the Master Plan is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Ocean City Free Public Library. The Master Plan does not change zoning law. Any proposed ordinance amendments must be approved by City Council.
Visit the city's Master Plan Re-Examination Report page to see the proposed changes and accompanying documents.