Jul 29, 2014

The new Hospitality Zone - a model for increased density of development.

The new Hospitality Zone - a model for increased density of development.

This is a repost.  I found two instances of this blog on Patch and in trying to delete the one inadvertently deleted both.  Apologies to the person who commented since comments were also deleted.  I tried to incorporate the gist of those comments.

Remember when in relation to the recent ordinance to remove the parking and attic areas from floor area ratio I saw it as a precursor to an increase in the density and intensity of development in the new Hospitality Zone?  The Planning Board has now gone on record as stating that it’s OK with greater density in the old Off Boardwalk and Hotel / Motel Zone (the new Hospitality Zone.)  Just prior to passing the Hospitality Zone on to Council it was tweaked to allow for even greater building coverage, less pervious coverage, and construction on smaller sized lots.  It was stated that increased density is a requisite for redevelopment in the Hospitality Zone.  The provisions of the ordinance also increase the intensity of development. 

Permissible building height is increasing into the 50 foot range.  And according to what I heard the new zone designation will allow for construction on less than 30 foot lots.  The permitted uses in the Hospitality Zone are hotel / motel, B&B’s, boarding houses, retail.  So it kind of makes you wonder why they’re reducing minimum lot size and allowing for construction on less than 30 foot lots.  It doesn’t seem consistent with the intended use does it?  Neither is an increase in density consistent with the stated goals of the Master Plan Re-exam.

Yes residential will be allowed in the new Hospitality Zone as long as it replaces residential that is already there.  I could take solace from that if it wasn’t for the fact that according to the City Planner 63% of what is in that zone now is nonconforming residential.  Or to put it another way out of the 242 parcels in that zone 153 are nonconforming residential.  That is staggering to me.  Of those 153 nonconforming residential properties 11 are single family.  So if you want to know who is in the driver’s seat in this town those numbers say it all.  Redevelopment of the residential in that zone will be accomplished by weakening the constraints on building height, overall building size, minimum lot size, allowable building coverage, floor area (particularly in relation to lot size), and non-impervious coverage.

Most people I talked to don’t feel that Hotel / Motel will fly in Ocean City.  Some say motels are a relic of the past.  Beach houses?  B&B’s?  Anyone’s guess.  So the more I think about it the more I’m convinced that this ordinance is targeted at redevelopment of the 63% residential, and that that redevelopment will come at the cost of an increase in both the intensity and density of development; both in the number of buildings squeezed into a block and the size of those buildings.  Aren’t we over developed enough?

That being said it was refreshing to hear that the goal is to increase density and intensity of development for the sake of the same.  I thought we only did that to make stuff conforming … to increase off street parking … to create “more affordable single family homes.”  So I appreciate the honesty (as far as it goes.)  But is a further increase in the intensity and density of development good for Ocean City?

The Corinthian model was proposed for the new Hospitality Zone as a “one size fits all.”  I drive thru that area of town on my way to work and I have to tell you it has severe parking and flooding problems.  Our infrastructure is already overwhelmed by decades of over development and neglect.  Maybe we ought to cool it with another round of yet more intense development until we address the problems we already created as a result of over development?

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