The Ocean City Planning Commission’s decision this week to work toward the development of a more restrictive zoning district for certain single-family home neighborhoods is likely to generate a snide remark or two.
Propelled as it was by a petition from the Mallard Island neighborhood, the call for a zoning designation that would disallow short-term rentals there is almost certain to be met by characterizations involving snobbery, elitism and such.
That is not the case, considering that Ocean City’s original zoning code made it clear that the R-1 single-family zone was not to include short-term tourist-related dwellings.
It did so based on the premise that year-round residents who mostly earned their livings through tourism and related industries also needed to be able to get away from that hustle and bustle at the end of the day, or night.
It was either that or encourage business owners and operators to live on the mainland instead of in the community where, as it happened, they were also civically engaged.
From a political standpoint, maintaining a solid base of voting residents from the business ranks also made sense, as they would bring balance to any discussion that would otherwise be dominated by persons not necessarily attuned to the needs of visitors, which was and continues to be, the driving force of the resort economy.
Although it has been argued that reclassifying the R-1 zone is a property rights issue, that could be said of all zoning classifications, which outline what can and what cannot be done in a particular district.
Ocean City is always changing, as buildings go up and come down, businesses move out and businesses move in, but it remains that it does need to preserve that base of owners and operators who have a vested interest in the well-being of the resort economy.
Having them relocate to quieter locations on the mainland over time will also mean losing the voice of business in local politics.
(Disclaimer: the writer of this editorial lives on Mallard Island).