Attic height limits approved for Ocean City Homes

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This home at 54th and Haven sparked debate at the Feb. 13 council meeting over the height of homes in the Ocean City Homes section of the island. This home at 54th and Haven sparked debate at the Feb. 13 council meeting over the height of homes in the Ocean City Homes section of the island.

OCEAN CITY — Attic ceilings will be limited to 6 feet high in the Ocean City Homes neighborhood under an ordinance approved by City Council Thursday, March 27.

During the meeting, it seemed clear that council members were more concerned with overall building height than with the headroom in the space. Peter Guinosso, the 4th Ward councilman who represents the area, said most neighbors want to rein in building heights in the neighborhood. After some wrangling among council members and the administration, it was decided to hold a meeting for neighbors to get more input on the issue.

In keeping the attic heights to 6 feet, Thursday’s vote set aside the recommendation of the city’s planning board and an appeal from a property owner in the neighborhood. The planning board recommended the limit be set at 9 feet for the center line of an attic. The attic would be the tallest at the center line of the house, and shorter moving away from the center of the building because of the slope of the roof.

At-large Councilman Scott Ping, who lives in the area, wanted to keep the height restriction to 6 feet, saying that the Ocean City Homes neighborhood does not want attics.

“We’ve never had attics there,” he said.

The neighborhood spans the area west of West Avenue from 52nd Street to 55th Street, and includes many single-family, year-round homes. Many of those houses are now being elevated above the required base flood elevation after being damaged during Hurricane Sandy. Some are being rebuilt.

In some cases, including on Dory Drive and at 54th Street and Haven Avenue, Ping said neighbors have expressed concern about new construction being built taller than anything else in the neighborhood.

“We’re seeing homes going up in Ocean City Homes that are just huge,” he said.

Ping suggested that the limits to attic height could help preserve the character of the neighborhood. He also told City Council that once houses are lifted, there will be plenty of storage room available underneath. Shelving could be placed along the walls on an expanded crawlspace, he suggested.

City attorney Dottie McCrosson said the ordinance was aimed at limiting attics, not at the overall building heights in the neighborhood. She said if that was what City Council wanted to accomplish, members should direct the city administration to draft such an ordinance, “because this isn’t going to do that.”

George Savastano, who lives in the neighborhood, said people in Ocean City Homes certainly do want attics. He has one, he said.

Savastano argued that the difference of 3 feet in the attic height would be imperceptible from the street, but would make a big difference to a property owner. He said the land the houses are on is very valuable, and in some cases represents the life savings of the property owner.

Savastano said many in the Ocean City Homes neighborhood are facing complicated bureaucracy at the state and federal level in rebuilding their homes after Sandy.

“We’re looking for our local government not to put unreasonable handcuffs on us,” he said.

Some on council wanted to hear more from the neighborhood.

Guinosso said he had already put together a focus group among neighbors, and had a sign-up sheet for those who wanted to participate further.

“I had a room full of people that showed up,” Guinosso said.

Councilman Keith Hartzell, participating in the council meeting by telephone, was not satisfied. He said he did not know how the participants were chosen, or how they heard about the meeting. Hartzell wants a meeting open to everyone in the neighborhood, and suggested that it could be held at the nearby Union Chapel by the Sea at 55th Street. He suggested going door to door to inform the neighborhood.

“I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I’m willing to do the legwork,” he said.

Council President Tony Wilson suggested that Hartzell, Guinosso and city business administrator Michael Dattilo get together to set up a meeting for the neighborhood to discuss zoning issues, which the city planning officials could attend. 

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Council wants more control of height in Ocean City Homes


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