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Council Gives Final OK to Rezoning Vacant Wawa and Peter Lumber Properties

Two approved ordinances include other zoning changes.

City Council voted on Thursday to rezone two commercial properties that have sat vacant and unsold for extended periods of time.

Council unanimously passed the second and final readings of two ordinances — one rezoning part of the 300 block of West Avenue (the bay side) that includes a long-closed Wawa, and the other rezoning part of the 1500 block of Haven Avenue (the ocean side) that is home to the closed Peter Lumber Company. The second ordinance included several other zoning changes in addition to the 1500 block of Haven Avenue.

 

THE WAWA BLOCK

The Wawa Food Market at the corner of Fourth Street and West Avenue remains unsold, because Wawa (at least initially) would not sell to anybody who would develop a competing coffee shop or convenience store. Zoning did not permit Wawa to sell to anybody who would develop a duplex. Meanwhile, the rest of the block is occupied by duplexes — which do not comply with current zoning laws.

The existing zone (Neighborhood Business) calls for duplexes that operate a business out of the first floor. The designation was created, in part, to help stem the disappearance of neighborhood businesses in favor of duplexes.

In pushing for a zoning change earlier this year, Councilman Keith Hartzell argued that a change would help Wawa sell the property and help the existing duplexes move into compliance. He said the change recognizes the reality of what exists on the block.

Others argued for a "zone it and they will come" approach to keeping the commercial zoning and attracting new businesses.

In the end, the ordinance included what City Council members called "an excellent compromise."

The ordinance rezones the bay side of West Avenue between Third and Fourth streets. It rezones part of the 190-foot-wide Wawa property (40 feet of frontage) to mixed commercial/residential use (commercial use on the first floor and residences above). It rezones the remainder of the half-block from Neighborhood Business to residential (R-2-30 or duplexes with 30-foot frontages). 

Council President Michael Allegretto recused himself from a 6-0 vote because of a potential conflict related to his job in the real estate industry.

 

PETER LUMBER AND OTHER CHANGES

Council unanimously approved the rezoning of the 1500 block of Haven Avenue (the former Peter Lumber Company property on the ocean side of the street) from commercial (Drive-In Business) to residential (R-1-30 or single-family homes with 30-foot frontages).

Council also approved the following changes:

  • Rezoning the 1200 block of Wesley Avenue (ocean side) from Residential Multi-Family to R-2-30 (or duplexes with 30-foot frontages).
  • Rezoning the 1300 block of Wesley Avenue (ocean side) from Residential Multi-Family to R-2-30 (or duplexes with 30-foot frontages).

At the request of Haven Avenue resident Rick Lawson (who spoke in public comment), a portion of the ordinance was removed from consideration: rezoning parts of the 300 block of Haven Avenue from North End Neighborhood to Residential Multi-Family.

Lawson argued that the residential family neighborhood on that block is more in keeping with the existing North End Neighborhood zone than a multi-family one, and the administration ultimately agreed.

Each of the changes approved by City Council on Tuesday was recommended by the Ocean City Planning Board, which approved an updated Master Plan on Oct. 17.

The Master Plan serves as a guideline for zoning and land-use decisions, but only City Council can change zoning ordinances.

Other rezoning recommendations from the Master Plan will be considered at future meetings.

Eric Sauder December 01, 2012 at 06:47 PM
No one seems to care about this so I’m reluctant to say anything about it. For some it is a victory that although the Wawa lot, suitable for something like a convenience store (with off street parking no less) was lost, a 40 foot lot (the width of a residence) with no off street parking was preserved as commercial. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m inconvenienced by the closure of the Wawa in the middle of town due to flooding from Sandy. The only Wawa we have left (for now) is on 34th Street. Most of the Blitz stores are closed in the winter. How convenient is a convenience store that you have to drive off the island or the whole way across town to get to?
Eric Sauder December 01, 2012 at 06:48 PM
If you’re going to build residential in a commercial zone why not single family? Oh you can’t make as much money building single family? Sounds like a good reason to zone for duplex, huh? Did you ever look at a zoning map of Ocean City? What really jumps out at you is that the vast majority of this island is zoned for duplex. What hasn’t been zoned for duplex is rapidly being converted to duplex. Ordinance 12.16 (which just passed) represents more of the same. Drive in business and neighborhood business is being converted to residential. There were two lots (the Peter Lumber site) that were rezoned single family. Undoubtedly those lots will be subdivided. According to what I’ve been told the block that was rezoned from drive in business to north end neighborhood will also be single family (the designation of the NEN zone). That’s the upside (if you discount the loss of commercial). If you include ordinance 12.17 which also passed, the balance (some 35 lots) were zoned for duplex. The changeover from residential multi-family (things like beach houses and B&B’s) to R2-30 represents the continued shift from lower cost housing (where you can rent a room) to private housing. Around 20 lots were rezoned from commercial to residential. What was converted to single family was converted from commercial. And we’re just getting started.
Eric Sauder December 01, 2012 at 06:49 PM
There’s nothing new here. At least we’re talking about single family. But the trend of converting commercial to residential continues, and the bulk of what we’re rezoning is being rezoned for duplex.

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