Suntan lovers, take heed. Voters in Ocean City, Md., decreed yesterday that no new building taller than five stories can be erected there unless its shadow falls entirely within the boundaries of its own lot.
The Atlantic Ocean resort already has many condominiums and hotels of a dozen stories or taller, but yesterday's overwhelming vote in a special election apparently puts a halt to that.
City Planning Director Jesse C. Houston said officials are worried that the vote will make it "extremely difficult for developers to build the sort of high-class hotels that the city wants."
But Vince Gisriel Jr., an organizer of the petition drive that led to yesterday's election, said the vote was "the beginning of great things" that would "make this town a better place to visit, to enjoy, to retire to, and to live here generally." A new law that the voters rejected 1,122 to 495 yesterday "would have encouraged high-rises and excess development," he said.
The vote was the latest chapter in a long dispute over building heights in the city, which attracts up to 250,000 beachgoers on busy summer weekends but has only 6,000 full-time residents.
City zoning laws have restricted buildings to five stories, but allowed the Zoning Appeals Board to grant exceptions if a building did not cast shadows that were "detrimental" to nearby property. A judge ruled two years ago that those laws must be interpreted more rigidly, and that ruling led to enactment of the new law -- rejected yesterday -- once again permitting buildings taller than five stories if the Zoning Board found that their shadows caused no detriment to other property.
Now the older law, with its rigid interpretation, is back in effect, meaning no more buildings over five stories if the shadow trespasses beyond the property line.