New Group Hopes to Rally Citizens Interested in ‘Smart Growth’

first_imgTwo women who raised families in the same house at the heart of the Historic District are now working to make sure others can raise their families in Ocean City.The former Palermo’s Family Market at the corner of Fourth Street and Asbury Avenue (and upper-story residences) will be demolished and replaced by new duplexes if the Planning Board OKs a site plan later this spring.Phyllis Coletta and Helen Plourde-McSweeny earlier this month formed Ocean City Smart Growth, a new group advocating for decreased development density, increased single-family homes and protection of the environment on the island.At different times, the women lived in the same house on the 400 block of Central Avenue. The former Palermo’s Family Market property sits in the back yard — and seven new duplexes are now planned to replace the abandoned commercial building there.One of the goals of the group is to “continue to oppose that development,” according to Coletta. But Ocean City Smart Growth also hopes to recruit citizens to identify properties in their own neighborhoods that are ripe for similar redevelopment.The group wants citizens to feel empowered and to become part of the planning process, according to Coletta.__________Anybody can learn more about how to participate:By visiting OCSmartGrowth.orgBy e-mailing [email protected] following Ocean City Smart Growth on Facebook__________ Ocean City Smart Growth has launched a new website that invites anybody to participate. Coletta says the Palermo plan is representative of a growing trend in Ocean City. She said the rezoning of the commercial property to allow duplexes was done with the approval of a City Council comprised of members directly tied to or too heavily influenced by the real state and tourism industries in Ocean City.“We plan to get four people elected who reflect the values of Smart Growth,” Coletta said of the spring 2016 election that will determine representatives from each of Ocean City’s four wards (City Council also includes three at-large members, whose terms will expire in 2018).Coletta acknowledges that the Palermo redevelopment is in its late stages — with the new zoning approved last summer and a potential developer expected to take a subdivision and site plan to the Ocean City Planning Board in May.But the group hopes to be able to influence other proposals, including one Coletta believes will be imminent: a potential bid to rezone commercial property on the 1600 block of Simpson Avenue where the Perry Egan car dealership now operates.Coletta said she recognizes that factors beyond zoning affect a family’s ability to afford single-family housing or the community’s ability to purchase land for open space.She says she wants to see “people having real conversations around this issue … not complaining but dialogue.”Smart Growth hopes to work with the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit that helps communities conserve land as parks or open space.last_img read more