Revisit Parking Law
Apparently, the Ocean City Town Code allows a mere 48 hours to pay a parking violation ticket without extended penalty. For many, this is impossible. They are on a budgeted vacation and have planned accordingly – they have not included a parking ticket. Many wait until they get home to pay – this, of course, is beyond the two-day grace period. Therefore, a penalty is imposed and it is a whopping $55 for a total of $70. Additionally, if the penalty is not paid in full, then MVA is informed and the tags are flagged thereby imposing yet another fee – $30. The grand total now due is $100. This occurs even though, upon immediate arrival from the vacation, the original fine is mailed in and deposited by the city – all within 10 days.
Says B.R. Robinson of the OCPD, “It’s the law”. A complaint may prompt B.R. (as he likes to refer to himself) to offer to “do you a favor” and eliminate the penalty – but the account has already been flagged to MVA – you are now mandated to pay the $30 or you get no tag renewal and potentially sent to Maryland’s Central Collection Agency which then would work against your otherwise perfect credit score. All it would take is an error by MVA – perhaps not acknowledging its fee was indeed paid.
Not even the thought of the waves, a warm beach and sunshine can heal the headache of parking in Ocean City and fearing that if your dinner at Aldolfo’s is running a bit behind or the kids want one more Trimper’s ride before leaving that it could cost you $100. Seems to me that money could be better spent while in OC. Most vacationers are in the town for five to seven days. Let the fine ride for 10 days until they can get home. Allow the $15 to be spent on the Boardwalk.
As a former member of the House of Delegates, my goal is to try to right a wrong and make things better for people. I write this letter not for me, but for all the tourists who grace the city with their presence – only to later find out the city commits highway robbery. When asked how many of the people who visit the town and spend their money at the business establishments are robbed in this manner, B.R. replied arrogantly, “I have no idea”
Someone ought to get an idea and it should be brought to the council. An extension on the payment of the tickets should be sought. The “law” needs to be changed. OC coffers can’t be so low that allowing a 10-day grace period would create any deficit. Tourists, the butter on the bread of the businesses, should not be subjected to this type of revenue enhancement scam.
County Needs To Answer Questions
During the winter of 2004, mature trees, the underbrush and native grasses, weeds and briars were cut, mowed and sprayed with herbicides along 500 continuous feet of the 100-foot buffer on the northeast side of Scotts Landing Road in southeastern Worcester County. This action was in direct violation of the newly enacted Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area regulations. County enforcement officers were notified and the complaint was investigated. Certified letters were sent to property owners requiring them to mitigate the damage by replanting trees, posting a bond and signing a planting agreement. One of the property owners readily complied; posted a $2,500 bond and signed a replanting agreement. The other property owner finally complied after 2 1/2 years of arbitration with the Director of Development Review and Planning and legal aid from Md. Attorney Generals office. At that point, the problem seemed to have been resolved and the law had been satisfied, or so I thought.
But during the spring of 2007, the new owner of the lots filed for four variances to allow a single-family home to be constructed. I toured the property and became aware of three significant facts:
1. 64 cut-off tree stumps existed on the property rather than the 14 stumps listed in all county enforcement action.
2. Not one of the 42 trees required by the county under the Critical Areas regulations and the replanting agreement had been planted on the property.
3. The $2,500 planting bond had been returned to the previous owner of the property.
Based on the new information, additional questions were raised with county officials. Their responses ranged from outright inaccuracies to no response at all. Because protection of the environment is the law and fairness and equal treatment under the law is a hallmark of our democracy, I believe county officials owe the citizens they serve answers to the following questions:
1. Why were the required actions to compensate for the violations of the law never completed? Where is the paperwork regarding the planting requirements for the property in question? Why have no “after the fact” permits/variances been issued for the illegal acts committed on the two properties? Why were no fines or penalties assessed to the delinquent property owner after the 30-day period for compliance had elapsed and nothing to remedy the violation had been accomplished? Why did county employees continually insist that 42 trees had been planted on the disturbed lot when the evidence does not support this?
2. Why did employees in the County Administration Office hold a letter clearly addressed to the seven County Commissioners detailing the environmental violations for over 30 days when two office assistants stated the procedure was copies will be made and placed in each commissioner’s in-box before the next County Commissioners meeting?
Documentation in this case reveals a pattern of repeated actions contrary to established criteria for enforcement, actions by persons without enforcement requirements. Why? These patterns of response by the county to documented violations of the law raise disturbing issues about the county’s use of its authority. An inquiry is needed to correct the violation and to insure fair and just enforcement of the Critical Areas regulations for the future. Our environment and our citizens deserve nothing less. If you are upset over the information in this letter, please call your district County Commissioner and request an inquiry be conducted.
Tax Plan Will Hurt Working Families
The governor, as part of his budget proposal, recently proposed that Maryland sales and use taxes would be increased to 6 percent and applied to property management services. That means renters in apartments that use property management services will pay that tax through higher rents. This proposal is inconsistent with the governor’s pledge to help working families. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Maryland is already the seventh most expensive rental market in the country. Maryland should work to help housing affordability not make it worse.
The main focus has been on Maryland renters paying more due to the property management tax; however, homeowners and condo owners should take note, too. Many homeowner associations and condo boards are also managed by professional management companies and will also pay a 6 percent tax on top of their management fees. Those taxes will ultimately be paid by the property owners in higher HOA and condo assessments. This tax is bad enough when considering its impact on renters, but it will hit homeowners, too.
The property management tax will also hit small business. Any small business renting space from a building owner using a property management service will ultimately pay this tax as it is passed down to them through higher rents. The property management tax is a bad deal for small business.
The governor’s proposal to tax property management services could have a devastating effect on Ocean City and the surrounding areas. Therefore, the Coastal Association of Realtors® urges everyone affected by this tax to contact the governor’s office and their legislators to voice their opposition to placing a sales and use tax of 6 percent on property management services.
Governor’s and legislators phone numbers and e-mail address can be found at: http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/07leg/html/gaco.html
(The writer is the president of the Coastal Association of Realtors®.)
I have just spent the last nine weeks in the Atlantic Rehabilitation Center. This letter is one of thanks to the many beautiful people I’ve met on the staff. My gratitude goes to therapists: Kim, Renato, Carrie, Muffy, Janice, Jennifer, Andrea and Corinna. Many thanks also go to the nursing and aide staff. Included are Barbara Lake, Rita Godfrey, Emma, Belinda, Meredith, Mary Ellen, Iffy, Darnell and Marie. I note, especially, the compassion which these individuals gave to those of us who were patients. Their devotion to duty was, as we say in the Marine Corps, "above and beyond" (the call of duty). All was deeply appreciated.
My thanks and gratitude to members of the Social Services staff, especially Wendy Shirk, Jessica and Jill, who took me through the paper maze, which enveloped me.
While I missed being on the Ocean City scene, I was (and am) grateful for all I received and experienced at the facility.
Lastly, many thanks to all my friends who visited me and kept me up-to-date with what was happening in Ocean City and Worcester County.
Priced Out Of Market
I just read that the "County Paves Way For Room Tax Hike", in this week’s edition of The Dispatch.
Does the OCHMRA not get it? Ocean City is pricing itself out of business, and now wants to punish the few remaining loyal vacationers, like myself, who keep thinking it will get better.
I am starting to second guess if I should renew my condo lease for next year, perhaps it is time to look into other options for beach vacations for my family. Do I really want to keep paying the price for all of the missing vacationers not coming to OC anymore?
Room Tax Thoughts
The Worcester County Commissioners are receiving public opinion about a bill to increase the room tax in Ocean City to attract more tourists. The money would be spent to advertise the town in the Western Shore markets. Everyone there knows the location of Ocean City; it’s just that the hotel-motel-restaurant owners have priced themselves out of the market. No amount of advertising will attract people to the resort until prices come down and people will not be fooled by “value for their money.” A condo is a condo, a motel room is a motel room and Sysco steak is Sysco steak. No value there.
“By the sea by the sea by the beautiful sea, just bring lots a mon eeee to Ocean Citeeeeee”
I overheard the following conversation in Buckminister, Pa.
“I saw an ad on television last night. Lets go to Ocean City this summer”
“Can’t afford it. Rooms cost over $200 a night.”
“Well, maybe we can play the slots and win enough to go.”
“Good idea!, we will drive to Dover, play the games and if we hit the jackpot, we will have enough money for a hotel room.”
This discussion occurred in a diner near Deep Creek Lake, Md.
“I saw an ad on “Wheel of Fortune” for Ocean City. Lets go there this summer.”
“It costs a fortune to stay there.”
“Well, we need to go someplace!”
“The Russians are offering a rocket flight to the Space Station for only $20 million.”
“How many days?”
“Several it says.”
“That’s cheaper than Ocean City.”
“Yea, and look at this. the Spanish are putting up a space hotel called Galactic Suites. You get a three-day stay, 15 sunrises per day plus an 80-minute earth orbit for only $4 million.”
“That’s still cheaper than Ocean City. When can we go?”
“They are still working out the problem of going to the bathroom in zero gravity.”
“Well, in Ocean City they have the ocean.”
Darling, W.Va. brought this encounter.
“Did you see the ad about Ocean City on television last night?
“No, what did it say?”
“The New Affordable Ocean City.”
“You can now stay there for a week for $500.”
“Per person. It’s called the “Love thy Neighbor” program.”
“How does that work?”
“Each hotel room can hold six and they fill up the beds with strangers.”
“You mean you don’t know the people in the next bed.”
“Yes, but it’s the only price reduction the Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association could come up with.”
“Well, make a reservation. It’s the only way we can afford the beach.”
“What about kids?”
“They sleep under the bed for half price.”
“By the sea by the sea by the beautiful sea, just bring lots a mon eeee to Ocean Citeeeeee.”
In Annapolis these days, two plots thicken: the Democratic Plot and the Republican Plot. Meanwhile the slots sleazeballs and their scumbag lobbyists swarms all over State House hill.
The Democratic Plot, a.k.a. the Slots Railroad Plot, is pretty straightforward. Slots can’t win in the regular 90-day, January-April Assembly session, so Governor O’Malley and Senate President Miller want to railroad them through a special session.
Slots will be part of a deficit-relief package dictated by these two leaders. There will be no hearings nor other chance for ordinary legislators to debate it well. The leaders will dare them to vote against it. The train is leaving, all aboard.
The Republican plot, a.k.a. the Blame-the Democrats plot, is worthy of Karl Rove. Although slots would win more easily with Republican legislators’ votes, slots could win without any of them. If the Republicans all vote no, they gain politically either way the tally goes.
If slots wins, Republicans can claim the Democrats are entirely to blame and over the next many years, as the many evils of slots become increasingly evident, Republicans can hang slots like a big albatross around the necks of any and all Democratic candidates.
The many evils of slots have frequently been spelled out. Two, however, need more attention: Slots will not be limited to horse tracks; they will be in every corner store and restaurant just as they were in Southern Maryland before 1964. And the slots sleazeballs will buy the state government just as they bought the Southern Maryland county governments.
J. A. Hoage