OCEAN CITY — Promoting more single-family homes, accommodating businesses and maintaining the resort's character were some key goals the Planning Board discussed Wednesday in a meeting regarding its re-examination of the city's Master Plan.
The Master Plan is a document that guides land use in a municipality, and each local government is required to have one. Ocean City is in the process of a comprehensive re-examination of its Master Plan, and the Planning Board is tweaking it to improve the quality of life of residents and attract more people to the island.
Many of the issues it aims to address are common for shore towns in New Jersey, especially Cape May County: the year-round population has declined, negatively affecting schools and businesses.
The city is almost completely built-out, so nearly all the zoning changes in the report affect land that is already developed. If a building is redeveloped, though, it will have to comply with the new zoning.
That means any actual results of the revisions make take years to be seen, but city officials believe it is prudent to make changes now before the local construction industry returns to pre-recession levels.
Some key elements included targeting certain areas to permit more single-family homes, providing tax abatements to new businesses, beautifying the city's gateways and making sure existing homes and businesses are retained.
Wednesday's meeting included a presentation on the proposed changes to the plan as part of the board's re-examination report, which it last undertook six years ago. This report began more than a year ago, and the board formally introduced it Wednesday. It will have a public hearing on the plan Oct. 17.
Once adopted, the recommended changes will not take effect until the City Council adopts the necessary zoning ordinances through a whole other process that will also include public comment.
The public also provided input Wednesday. Several praised the plan, while some recommended specific changes to either their neighborhood or specific properties.
“It is truly an astonishing amount of work that has gone into this re-evaluation,” said local architect Edwin Howell.
After adopting the re-examination report, the city will have to adopt the new zoning ordinances to implement the changes. Only then will the changes take effect.
When they do, Howell recommended providing a grace period for projects that have already been in planning or design. He said he could spend eight months working on a project only to have that work negated because of zoning changes.
Bill McMahon, president of the local McMahon Agency insurance group, expressed support for a change that would require the lowest habitable floor of a residence between two feet above the base flood elevation. He said it is imperative to making sure the city complies with ever-changing federal insurance standards.
“We need to be proactive and be in the best possible position so when it does change we're not affected,” he said.
Lee Ann Kampf, who recently relocated to the city with her family from Pennsylvania, said promoting more single-family homes is very important. She said her family had a difficult time finding available homes to purchase, but after moving here she said she met a number of other new residents in their neighborhood.
“I'm not sure if this is a coincidence, but hopefully it's part of a trend,” she said.
The next planning board meeting will be held on Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. A location has not yet been determined.
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