SNOW HILL — The Worcester County Planning Commission approved last Thursday initial concepts for a five-screen movie theater and a 10-lane bowling alley adjacent to the Casino at Ocean Downs.
“We wanted to have a complementary use,” explained John Salm, President of J.W. Salm Engineering.
Salm’s firm was contracted by Ocean Downs owner William Rickman to design the 37,773-square-foot theater and the 10,096-square-foot bowling alley. Once finished, the goal is to make the facilities part of the Ocean Downs experience, said Salm.
“We felt it was ideal for this particular piece of property,” he told the planning commission.
While the casino includes both a horse track and slot machines for adult visitors, there’s not much on the property at the moment for non-gamblers. Salm asserted that the theater and the bowling alley will provide outlets for visitors who don’t wish to use the casino but have friends or family who may. He also pointed out that both facilities would be filling a scarcity in the community, since there are currently no movie theaters or bowling alleys in the Ocean Pines area.
While most aspects of the designs Salm proposed were in line with the code, he did need to ask for a few waivers for small details like lighting and building transparency for the theater and bowling alley. He did make sure to remind the assembly that other concessions are already being made on the casino’s part.
“We actually extended the required setback,” he said.
Commissioner Coston Gladding expressed some concern over the state of the roads found on the casino property and wondered if they could handle the anticipated increase in traffic brought on by the new facilities. Salm assured him that the roads are more than sound. Commissioner Brooks Clayville also had concerns over traffic, though his focus was on Route 589.
“I’m a little leery approving anything before I see what the traffic study has to say,” he said.
“Once we approve, it we can’t un-approve it,” Clayville said.
Salm revealed that a traffic study is being conducted by the State Highway Administration and that he is prepared to follow any recommendations they make.
Commissioner Wayne Hartman’s only suggestion was that Salm consider merging the theater and bowling alley into one site, instead of the two buildings in his current proposal.
“Would it be cheaper?” Hartman asked.
Whether or not it would be cheaper, replied Salm, it still wouldn’t be ideal, since issues with vendors and other factors make separating the facilities the favored option. After having its questions answered, the commission voted unanimously to approve Salm’s proposal.
Though he has initial approval, Salm told the commission that he can’t give them a timeline on construction yet, since partners and vendors are still being secured.