OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council took their final vote in approving a new exterior lighting code that will allow the town to eliminate lighting on new construction that’s non-conforming, or “annoying”, as one official described it.
One problem property that has been creating issues for its neighbors in the last year or so is the Rivendell on 81st Street. The Mayor and City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission have been working with neighboring property owners in having the Rivendell’s glaring lights minimized but the Fire Marshall has concluded that the building’s lighting installed in its parking garage and balconies meet the code.
Andy Anders, resident of the Bay Princess that sits adjacent to the Rivendell, submitted a letter to Mayor and City Council. He said that he is in support of the proposed lighting code being considered and agrees it should be placed only for new construction.
“The key point is Ocean City needs to cover the cost of litigating negligence enforcement of the code by their commissions and not just have the property owners put up with the consequences,” Anders wrote.
The current code includes the language that exterior lighting is required to be “focused and controlled”, or will need to be enforced on existing properties.
“Please don’t feel you have solved the problem by approving the new code … the code was not the problem, it was the enforcement during site plan approval. Until someone steps up and understands you need to clean up a non-compliant situation and not cover up, your codes mean nothing and the property owners of Ocean City will have to deal with the consequences of incompetent zoning and planning enforcement during site plan approval procedures,” Anders said.
Planning and Community Development Director Jesse Houston concurred that the existing ordinance’s language requires exterior lighting to be “focused and controlled”, but said the purpose of the new ordinance is to clarify the language so it can lead to better enforcement.
“The interpretation and the approval was that those lights [Rivendell] were effectively focused and controlled to meet the code that was in place at the time,” Houston said.
Council President Jim Hall said the Rivendell lights are just plain annoying but feels the issue has exceeded the town’s power and has become a civil matter, and will have to be taken to court if any other action is to take place.
“We are passing this ordinance to hopefully correct some of this in the future…I agree they are too bright but according to Blaine [Smith, Zoning Administrator] they met the code at the time,” Jim Hall said.
Once the council approved the new exterior lighting code all existing lighting becomes grandfathered in, including non-compliant lighting, which has caused some concern.
“We will continue to do exactly what we have been doing in the past,” Houston said. “We will go out investigate the situation … work with the property owners, and try to arrive to a solution to the problem.”
Houston added that in the past no measurement was included in the exterior lighting code. Now that the new code includes no more than .2 footcandle of lighting on a property line the town will have a measurement to rectify and solve a complaint.
The ordinance rules existing non-conforming luminaires installed prior to the adoption of these regulations that do not meet the requirements may continue to be used unless it is deemed by the town to pose safety hazard, it is replaced by another luminaire, abandoned, or relocated, and if there is a change of use of the property.