Boardwalk Eyes Outdoor Display Controls

OCEAN CITY – Outdoor displays along the Boardwalk will see
increased regulation this summer, as the Boardwalk Development Association
(BDA) works to promote business along the Boardwalk in an effective and
aesthetically pleasing manner.

BDA President Vicki
Barrett, along with BDA member and Alaska Stand owner Bob Givarz, presented the
Planning and Zoning Commission with draft proposals this week for regulation of
outdoor displays.

“Our mission is to
promote business on the Boardwalk…we represent everyone on the Boardwalk,” said
Barrett, explaining that while the BDA wants regulation on outdoor displays,
the ultimate goal of the BDA is to promote business.

“We all agree that it is
a privilege and not a right to have outdoor displays,” said Barrett.

Currently, the Board of
Zoning Appeals receives and approves applications for outdoor display. Although
a review process occurs, there are few standards and guidelines for the BZA to
adhere to. Enforcement has also become cumbersome. Several store and restaurant
owners agreed, in a public hearing held last year, that enforcement was wanted
and needed along the Boardwalk.

In an effort to tighten
restrictions before the summer season, the BDA presented proposed changes this
week.

“We feel there needs to
be a more formalized drawing of where things need to be placed,” Barrett said.

“Part of the problem is
you can’t really legislate taste,” said Givarz.

In order to help
regulate copious merchandise display on the Boardwalk, the BDA suggested
limiting merchandise to three like items per display, for example, three
T-shirts or three sweatshirts. Bins will also be limited to two and merchandise
will be limited to 20 square feet of space.

A-frames, though
considered signs rather than outdoor display, were also addressed. Givarz
suggested that A-frames be required to be professionally done and no larger
than 12 square feet. “No cardboard with handwritten prices and letters,” said
Givarz.

Givarz added, “I think
it’s been very hard for code enforcement in this town.” He noted that the
problem ultimately lies with enforcement. The BDA proposed an increase in
fines, with a $250 fine for the first offense, $500 fine for the second, and
$1,000 fine for the third and final offense.

“Beyond that their
permit would be revoked and they would have to re-apply,” said Barrett.

The license period for
outdoor displays would also change, from two years to three years. If three
violations are received during the two-year period, a license will be revoked.

“Part of the problem is
you have absentee property owners,” said Givarz, suggesting the property owner
and renter be held responsible.

Inspectors will be added
to the policing of the Boardwalk this summer, documenting violations and in
turn giving evidence to code enforcement, which will issue notices of
violation.

In an effort to
encourage aesthetically pleasing outdoor displays, the BDA suggested providing
incentives. Use of carts, green power, or more seating will give the storeowner
the opportunity for more outdoor display.

“We’re not asking to
change that much, we’re just tightening it,” said Barrett, explaining that the
guidelines would be very similar to the Ocean City Development Corporation’s
guidelines that are currently in place for the upper and lower sections of
downtown, which don’t include the Boardwalk.

“Everybody is willing to
do what is asked of them, as long as everybody else has to do it,” said
Barrett.

Zoning Administrator
Blaine Smith said, “Having guidelines and standards that are consistent will
provide a level playing field.”

The Planning Commission
voted unanimously to support the use of the proposed guidelines.

“The bottom line is we
want the Boardwalk to be as exciting as it can be,” said Barrett.

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