Fenwick motel talk takes center stage this Friday

This Friday, the people will have the floor, but they’ll be discussing beds.

The Fenwick Island Town Council will host a public hearing at Town Hall on Friday, Dec. 4, at 2:30 p.m., regarding room density in hotels and motels.

Room density is based on lot size. The town code currently allows hotels/motels to have one sleeping room per 1,000 square feet of overall land.

The proposed zoning amendment would add allow hotels/motels existing before 1988 (the existing three hotels) to have one room per 600 square feet. New businesses would still be required to follow the 1,000-square-foot rule. None could have more than 65 sleeping rooms.

Sands Motel owner Spiro Buas originally requested a code change earlier this year in hopes of upgrading and adding to his 39 rooms on 39,000 square feet of land.

Councilman Bill Weistling Jr. has guided the effort through the Charter & Ordinance Committee, saying it’s only fair for the Sands, or any town hotel, to have a density comparable to the others, which boast 61 and 62 rooms and lower density. Just after those were both completed in the mid-1980s, the town council created the density standards. But the Sands was built long before that, about 60 years ago.

Residents have weighed in loudly, some encouraging the change as a means for the Sands to improve, and others questioning whether the amendment is worded strongly enough to make the intent legally binding. (The council has already adjusted the amendment in an attempt to address people’s fear of uncontrolled growth.)

To become law, the amendment must pass two council readings and undergo a public hearing. The town council is expected to vote on the second reading (and potential passage) at the Friday, Dec. 12, meeting, at 2:30 p.m.

The council could approve or reject the amendment as written; or tweak the wording and vote on minor changes; or make significant changes and begin the reading/public hearing process again (which has already happened once).

Due to the high public interest, the public hearing was separated from the regular Town Council meeting, to provide ample time for individuals to comment and for the council to consider the comments before voting at least a week later.

Specifically, the amendment affects Town Code Chapter 160-2B (Definitions and word use) and Chapter 160-5C(5) (Area Regulations) for a hotel/motel in the commercial zone.

The code currently states: “Each motel/hotel permitted to be erected or altered hereafter shall occupy a lot(s) providing a minimum of 1,000 square feet of land area for each sleeping room therein, including sleeping rooms in any apartment included in the motel/hotel building.”

The amendment would add the following text: “Each motel/hotel existing prior to 1988 shall occupy a lot(s) providing a minimum of 600 square foot of land for each sleeping room, not to exceed a total of 65 sleeping rooms…”

Anyone unable to attend Dec. 4 may review the ordinance or submit comments beforehand at Town Hall during regular business hours, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.