OCEAN CITY – The saga of the Trimper’s tax bill continued this week with the news of a reduction in the assessed value of several of the family’s 24 properties, but those that did not see any change include perhaps the most visible symbol of Ocean City – the land where the amusement rides sit at the south end of the Boardwalk.
Over the next three years, the family will save $470,000 in taxes after the reduction. The savings on the 2007/2008 bill alone are $78,000. The original assessment would have caused property taxes to double within the next three years. According to the company, within two years the tax assessment would have exceeded profits, before the change.
“They determined the assessment was too high,” said Joe Harrison, attorney for Trimper’s. “They made some significant adjustments in the Trimper properties.”
Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHRMA) Executive Director Susan Jones was excited by the news.
“It’s a good starting point and a good move in the right direction. We definitely were excited to hear that,” said Jones. “Hopefully, it will be enough to help the family stay afloat.”
The organization has been so concerned at the thought of Trimper’s selling up that it established a website, savetrimpers.org.
Many of the Trimper properties in West Ocean City on Route 611, used for storage and employee housing, saw a reduction, as did some of the downtown Ocean City properties.
But the future of the Trimper’s amusement park is still not settled, with the Trimpers likely to appeal the state’s decision on five properties.
“We still have an honest difference of opinion on some of the remaining parcels,” said Harrison. “We’re exploring the possibility of an appeal on those.”
Any appeal must be submitted by mid-September. The parcels still in question include the block with the indoor and outdoor rides, the land behind the Dough Roller that houses more rides and parking at Baltimore Ave. where the Tank Battle attraction once sat.
“The assessments that are left are still probably close to doubling the value in 2004,” Harrison said.
While pleased to see the value of 15 properties reduced to a more accurate level, Harrison said the higher tax bills are still a “serious hit.”
Although the public perception has seen only two choices, stay or go, in reality the Trimpers have several alternatives.
“We’re exploring various options that they’ve got to go ahead and make it viable to continue the business,” Harrison said. “No full decision have been made. … The book’s still open. It’s not closed yet.”
Doug Trimper, Trimper’s vice president, did not respond to phone calls. According to a staff member, Trimper said he has not seen the numbers yet and could not comment.
Tax incentives could provide some relief, although the historic site designation proposed by some would probably be too restrictive, Harrison said.
The attorney praised the assessment office for the work it did and the decisions made.
“They took a close look. Every property is different. Every parcel has a little different nuance,” said Harrison.
The first appeal took a lot of work on Harrison’s part too. “You just can’t go in and say, generally, the market has changed and it’s not very good. They want specific facts,” he said.
Research into property sales downtown revealed some pertinent, though not surprising, information.
“There were very few sales of individual lots south of the Route 50 bridge,” Harrison said. “None of those sales really supported the value the assessment office had on the Boardwalk properties.”
Research into all properties south of Route 90, and all properties north of that highway, showed what many have been saying: the large numbers of condominiums built in the last several years are not selling.
“It wasn’t a pretty picture,” Harrison said. He concluded that no one would build those large-scale condominium projects now if they had those facts in front of them.
“That buyer had left the market,” said Harrison. “I think it’s clear the assessments were too high.”
The assessment office is not to blame, according to Harrison.
“The assessment office is really undermanned. They just don’t have enough people there. I think the assessor who did a lot of the commercial work back there was overwhelmed,” he said. “It’s a tough job. Sometimes they don’t have the full facts we were able to bring to their attention.”
Many are worried about what would happen to Ocean City’s tourism industry without Trimper’s rides anchoring the Boardwalk.
“There goes the nostalgia and the reason a lot of people visit,” said Jones. “We definitely would not want to lose it.”
County Commissioner Louse Gulyas agreed, saying, “To not have that attraction there would be awful. I can remember as a child riding the merry-go-round. I took my own children up there.”
The Save Trimpers website set up by the OCHMRA has recorded at least 45 memories from Trimper’s fans.
“Trimper’s and Ocean City are synonymous. It would be difficult to imagine one without the other …” Paul Russell wrote on the website.