Zoning code is what it is for now

12/05/2014

Any number of people who read this week’s story on the Hyatt’s presentation to the Ocean City Planning Commission might be wondering why this whole nonconformity arrangement exists in the Ocean City zoning code.

Some of those people might be members of the commission itself, but most of those who question the carryover of parking inadequacies and other developmental aspects that don’t conform to the resort’s requirements probably arrived in the area within the last couple of decades and aren’t aware of the origins of these codified quirks.

Individuals and families, not corporations or conglomerates, undertook Ocean City’s early rounds of motel and hotel development before there was zoning or, at least, any rigorous zoning.

Then, when the resort got serious about planning, elected officials recognized four things.

The first was that property values had increased astronomically. The second was that some of that value would be lost if restrictive standards were to be imposed on those properties’ redevelopment, since parking, setbacks, and other such niceties lower one’s profit margin. The third was that nobody had a desire to see buildings slowly fall apart if their owners refused to redevelop for fear of losing their right to be substandard.

And, four, Ocean City was (and still is) a small community where everyone knew everyone else, thus making it tough for officials to tell their friends and associates that, sorry, but we’re devaluing your property.

No one can or should fault the Sea Scape’s owners for following the code. Zoning, after all, is a science, not an art, and isn’t subject to individual interpretations that don’t reflect the reality of the law.

Some of this might not make sense in these times, as properties have changed hands and bigger money has come to town, but it remains that until the code is overhauled, that’s just the way it is, no matter what anyone wants or thinks.

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