OCDC’s Planned Changes Tabled

OCEAN CITY – After a lengthy discussion of planned
recommendations by the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) a few weeks
ago to the Mayor and City Council, it was decided the issues would be tabled
until a later date when they could be separately addressed.

At the work session of the Mayor and City Council Tuesday,
OCDC’s Executive Director Glenn Irwin and President Jay Knerr were back at the
microphone with their recommendations.

Knerr began the discussion by saying that OCDC’s No. 1
goal is to build retail traffic in the Somerset Street area.

“We all understand the uniqueness of the street and [the
Mayor and City Council] did a great job building the infrastructure and we want
to continue that,” he said. “We hope that you strongly consider our
recommendations here and pass them because we feel it will complete it and make
this street a true success for Ocean City.”

Knerr believes it is important for the renters of bicycles
and Segways to be able to ride them away from the stores they rented them at on
Somerset and recommended the council change the code prohibiting it.

“We have looked at the bike and Segways as a morning
activity use to bring energy to the street especially in the off season,” Irwin
said.

Council Secretary Nancy Howard said she did not have a
problem with bicycles except later in the day when it gets crowded downtown.
That was when Knerr suggested Somerset Street match the hours of the boardwalk
concerning bikes, which allows them between 2-10 a.m.

Seeing this as a fair compromise, Councilman Jim Hall made
the motion for Somerset Street to reflect the bike regulations of the
Boardwalk. The motion passed.

Next on OCDC’s list was to get approval for the bicycle
and Segways to be displayed on the street in the mornings and to allow EC
Glider, the Segway rental business, to conduct cash transactions on the street.

In order for businesses to obtain the use of the public
right of way, the OCDC plans to charge $750 for each business looking to do so.

“We are trying to find a revenue stream to fund our
special events and other improvements on that street,” Knerr said. “In the
past, we used our own funds but we are trying to make it self sufficient.”

The Mayor and City Council was on board with the idea,
however there were some concerns with allowing cash transactions to take place
on the street.

Howard said she is all for the success of Somerset Street
but is afraid that if they allow cash transactions on the street there it would
cause a stir among Boardwalk business owners.

“I would love to come up with a way to allow this without
opening up a can of worms,” she said.

According to Mayor Rick Meehan, he understands the OCDC is
working toward the greater good of the street, however, lifting the ordinance
would take away the council’s control.

“There is nothing that would prohibit or nothing that
would give us control over an organization that wanted to come and sell items
to represent their beliefs and sell items very similar to items that are sold
in the stores on Somerset Street or the Boardwalk,” he said.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas agreed, saying, “It’s scary
what you are suggesting and I really hope this doesn’t happen, although I am in
favor of doing something there to generate some business.”

Knerr was quick to defend his recommendation.

“We are just asking you to try this for one year,” he
said. “If it falls flat on our face, you can always take it away.”

Having heard how most already felt about the idea,
Councilman Jay Hancock supported it.

“Nothing has really clicked there yet, its a work in
progress and this may be something which would help a little bit more to
generate what you guys are trying to do down there,” he said.

Hall then made a motion to accept the recommendation,
however it would have a sunset date of April 30, 2008 meaning the businesses
have a year to prove themselves before the ordinance is put back into place.

Howard liked the idea and said if things do work out maybe
they could look into franchising the retail carts.

“This is one of those chicken or the egg things,” she
said. “We are not going to know if it’s successful unless we do it and we can’t
do it unless we have some kind of changes on regulations and I would just hope
that its hugely, widely successful.”

Council President Joe Mitrecic, who originally told Irwin
he was against the idea, said he would approve it since it is only for one
year.

“To set up a business in the town of Ocean City for $750
is ludicrous,” he said, in regards to the EC Glider. “He can set up a business in the town of Ocean City for $750, I’m
sorry I think that’s ridiculous and I think it’s wrong. There’s people that
rent buildings along that street and pay a tremendous amount of money to be
there.”

Hall agreed with Mitrecic but said the sunset date will be
the ultimate decider in the end.

“It expires next April and if the successful guys are
willing to pay more [to operate there] or want to stay, we’ll know,” he said.

The
recommendation to allow cash transactions to take place on the street was
approved, with six members for it and Pillas against it. 

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