Six-story residential building proposed for Soleil site in Ocean City

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OCEAN CITY — The developers of the proposed five-story Soleil Hotel and Spa at 11th and Ocean will go before the planning board next month seeking to change the use of the property to residential condominium and heighten the building by one story.

The Ocean City Planning Board will hear from the developers 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 5 in the Stainton Senior Center, 1735 Simpson Ave., on changes to the redevelopment plan for the property located across from The Flanders Hotel at 1101 Ocean Ave. approved by Ocean City Council in 2005.

In addition to the use change, the applicant, Select Properties, Inc. of Colmar, Pa. is proposing increasing the maximum permitted height of the building at the ridgeline to 83.3 feet from 68 feet, and of the decorative elements from 74 feet to 92.3 feet; increasing the maximum unit size from 1,100 square feet to 1,580 square feet; increasing the number of stories from five to six; reducing the setback of the building adjacent to 11th Street and attenuation of the 11th Street building façade; and reducing the number of hotel units below the 100-unit minimum, according to the proposal available in the city planning office.

According to the city planner Randy Scheule’s report, dated Dec. 4, 2013, the city's redevelopment plan identifies a five-story resort hotel as the preferred development for the parcel located on block 1101, lots 1-3.

“In addition to accommodations for guests, the five-story resort hotel is to include a conference, retail and restaurant amenities on the first floor, hotel suites on floors two-five limited to 1,100 square feet per unit, and full-time on-site management,” his report reads.

The plan permits a maximum 5-percent deviation in building height, setbacks and parking and does not recognize or permit residential condominiums as a permitted use, Scheule wrote.

According to their proposal, Select would like approval for 96 four-bedroom units in a six-story building with a corner restaurant/deli and lobby/sales/rental office. The plan includes 340 parking spaces, including 152 for The Flanders Hotel; guest access from 11th Street, and a primary entrance to the parking decks from Ocean Avenue. The first floor elevation is proposed at 12.3 feet.

Select asserts that the Soleil “‘will function to accommodate overnight tourism activities’ and that a lobby, real estate office, maid and linen services, restaurant, fitness center, sun deck and pool will encourage short-term rentals,” Scheule wrote in his report.

He goes on to state that Select’s application indicates that the request for the additional height is related to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new elevation requirements and to obtaining financing.

Scheule wrote that the application includes a site analysis prepared by Interim Hospitality Consultants that concludes “the reason the national hotel companies are not in the community is the prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages.

“Additionally, the report suggests that the summer-only hotel occupancy is insufficient to support a full-service hotel.”

According to Scheule, the proposal “represents a significant deviation in terms of use from the redevelopment plan’s goals and objectives.”

“The proposed residential complex offers minimal services to the general public,” he wrote.

Scheule’s report states that the proposed amendments are not consistent with the redevelopment plan or the city’s hospitality zone. In November 2013, Ocean City Council approved the hospitality zone, which runs from Plaza Place, just north of Seventh Street, to Chelsea Place, which is located between 15th and 16th streets. It includes the area just off the boardwalk between Plaza Place and 14th Street, the boardwalk area from 14th Street south to Chelsea Place, and areas in that stretch extending to the alley between Ocean and Wesley avenues, with one block between Ninth and 10th streets extending to the alley between Wesley and Central avenues.

“The primary goal of the new hospitality zone is to encourage hotel development and accommodations for short-term stays. Although the Select Properties site is not subject to the hospitality zone regulations, the creation of this new zone signifies the city’s preference for the development of hotels in this area,” Scheule wrote.

Ocean City Planning Board engineer Andrew Previti, in his report dated Nov. 25, 2013, stated that the project previously received a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act permit for the hotel project and the application will require an amended CAFRA permit or a new one.

Previti wrote that Scheule’s report notes that the proposed project “offers minimal benefit to the city” and he would agree with Scheule’s assessment.

According to the application, Select Properties owns the property and its principals are listed as Joe Ernst and Clayton Heckler. Nicholas Talvacchia of Cooper Levenson Attorneys in Atlantic City represents Select Properties. The planner for the property is Joseph Adamson of J. Adamson and Associates in Egg Harbor Township. Architectural plans were prepared by Minno and Wasko of Lamebertville.

Preliminary and final site plan approvals were granted to the Trier Group, LLC and Beach Properties, LLC by the Ocean City Planning Board on Feb. 7, 2007 based on the redevelopment plan.

The application was originally scheduled to be heard in December, but was pulled for that agenda at the applicant’s request.

Talvachhia was not immediately available for comment. Ernst and Heckler have not responded to a request for comment.

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