I started off this cross-country trip where Route 50 begins (or, depending on where you're coming from, where it ends.
Ocean City is Maryland's major beach resort. I had the opportunity to spend the morning touring Ocean City with its long-time planning director, Jesse Houston.
[click on the above image, and other images, to open a larger size version]
Ocean City has some 30,000 dwelling units -- over the course of the past 25 years, Jesse estimates an average annual increase of about 150 to 200 units. As a beach resort, the town -- not unexpectedly -- has a very high proportion of tourists and second home owners. Yet there's still a high level of public involvement, and a strong local planning commission.
One of the challenges the planning commission has taken on is better quality design for new developments.
The planning commission is focusing its design efforts on the historic downtown core -- that's the south end of Ocean City -- not on the "uptown" northern area home to many of the newer condo towers.
photo of just part of condo row in northern part of Ocean City, along the Coastal Highway:
In the audio excerpt (see the link a bit later in this post) you can listen to an excerpt of my discussion with Jesse about this. While much of Ocean City has a quite eclectic, hodge-podge look & feel to it, the older section does have a noticeable character -- so it does make sense to focus attention there.
In terms of design, part of what the planning commission is looking for in new building is a reflection of the traditional "beach"-style architecture. That includes a distinctive roof style, and features such as porches.
Here are two photos of projects Jesse pointed to as examples of this. The first is a new condo that is consistent with the design criteria. The second photo is of a smaller project under construction that also matches what the city is looking for in terms of design.
As Jesse explained, an interesting aspect of Ocean City's zoning now allows increased density -- in the form of top floor housing that has dormer windows. This is the veritable "win-win" solution, as it leads to a design that fits with the traditional character of the area, while also allowing for increased housing.
In the approximately 7 minute long excerpt from my conversation with Jesse -- recorded while we were driving -- you'll hear Jesse's commentary on several different topics (see Jesse's photo below):
- how to get better design / growth;
- Ocean City's historic mixed use zoning;
- how the town estimates its population (important, but tricky to do, in a place that has tremendous seasonal fluctuations in its population);
- and housing challenges facing seasonal employees, especially young people from overseas working in Ocean City.
- to listen to the conversation [press blue arrow to play; click link to download]
- access this conversation on our podcast page
That's it from Ocean City, Maryland -- a great place to start off this 6 week trip along the length of Route 50. Now it's time for me to join the traffic and head west!