(June 7, 2013) The often-confusing disharmony between the city’s zoning code and the Montego Bay Civic Association’s own self-enforced community restrictions has flared up again, as another property owner in the development claims that his deck project was denied by the MBCA under false pretenses.
“I find it very disheartening … that the current MBCA Board of Directors would circumvent officials to dictate policy and procedure against the Town of Ocean City approvals,” property owner Charlie Herbert wrote in a letter to resort officials.
Herbert’s issue stems from his proposal to construct a deck adjacent to his home.
Under city code, this deck could project up to six feet into the 10-foot setback required for the main structure itself, meaning the deck could be four feet from the property line.
This build-out is allowed under the city’s zoning requirements, and was therefore approved, because Herbert’s lot abuts public land that is considered a park.
But when he presented his plans for approval to the MBCA design review board, Herbert said his proposal was denied because it violated the board’s policy of not allowing anything less than a five-foot setback.
Because deeds to properties in the community are tied, as a condition of ownership, to the governance of the Montego Bay Civic Association, set up when renowned Ocean City developer Jim Caine first subdivided the land in the late 1960s, the development can enforce its own land use laws, which may be more restrictive.
But the policy the board cited in its disapproval was not specific to Montego Bay, but rather a part of city code the board claims city officials had overlooked.
“I think it was an oversight that they didn’t think [that code] would apply,” said MBCA Secretary Tony Kendricks. “
According to Kendricks, a section of the city’s zoning code specifies that mobile homes must be built no less than 10 feet from one another and no less than five feet from the property line.
“We didn’t feel like we needed to follow the city code that does not apply in Montego Bay and follow the code that does apply in Montego Bay,” Kendricks said. “We’ve let the city know that we are applying the mobile home district code.”
Such a code does exist, according to city Zoning Administrator R. Blaine Smith, but does not apply to Montego Bay, at least for the city’s purposes.
“When you’re talking about ‘mobile homes’ in that context, you’re talking about a co-op situation,” Smith said, such as a traditional trailer park, where residents each own a stake in the entire park property.
Montego Bay, while it may contain mostly mobile-style homes, it is not a co-op and has fee simple lots just like anywhere else, Smith said.
“They can enforce whatever code they wish to enforce,” Smith said. “But I can’t enforce it for them if it’s not applicable per the city’s zoning. That’s their own issue.”
Meanwhile, Kendricks maintains that the city erred in not applying the setback.
“The town wouldn’t have a specific code referencing mobile homes if they didn’t’ want there to be different standards for them,” he said.
Although the MCBA has the legal latitude to deny his project, Herbert said he objected fundamentally to the idea that the board could selectively interpret city code, against the interpretation of the city’s own officials, “to suit their narrow-minded suppression agenda.”
“It’s a standard that was established in writing last October when the board denied someone else who wanted to build an elevated deck,” Kendricks countered.
“It’s only fair that we consistently apply it,” he said.