Voices From The Readers

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WOC Deserves New Look

Editor:

Regarding The Dispatch’s story, “Resort Land Values Plummet,” Assessor Robert Smith says 95 percent of land value has gone down 15 percent in Ocean City.

I think West Ocean City is in the same boat. Our assessment was for 2008, 2009 and 2010 and we should get another assessment at least for 2009 and 2010 of 15 percent lower.

All West Ocean City taxpayers should get their pencils out, check your assessments and write to him at Robert Smith, Worcester Assessment Office, One West Market Street, Room 1202, Snow Hill, Md. 21863.

Russell Bradford

West Ocean City

Slots And Ocean City

Editor:

Greed has been setting in with the politicians and at least one business hoping to get their hands on the money from slots. When the notion of slots started, the politicians said it was going to fund the sagging horse racing industry. But lately, it appears very little will go to the race tracks. If slots are allowed, gamboling casinos are sure to follow. Ocean City will look like Atlantic City. If this happens, Ocean City will no longer be a family resort.

How do slots and gambling benefit the mom and pop small businesses in Ocean City? Actually, it is difficult to see how it will benefit the small businesses. The small business will be out of business. A case in point – Luigi’s Italian Restaurant was located at 2019 Pacific Avenue (between Michigan and Arkansas avenues) in Atlantic City. You can go look at it today. Luigi’s is no longer there. This location is now a three-block parking lot for the busses to bring in the day-tripping gamblers. Many of the small businesses in Atlantic City are just a memory.

Some of the politicians want to do a “wait and see”. What is there to wait and see? This is a no-brainer. Do you want Ocean City to look like Atlantic City with their gambling casinos or do you want it to remain a family resort? Maybe Atlantic City needed gambling in order to survive, I do not know. But during the summer season, Ocean City is crowded with vacationers. Why are the greedy gambling interests trying to push something on Ocean City that is not needed?

Slots need to be voted down in Worcester County.

Raymond Barley

Annapolis Junction, Md.

Weigh All Impacts

Of Slots When Voting

Editor:

As Marylanders focus their attention on the November referendum to bring slot machine gambling to our state, the details and the impact need to be fully considered. If slots are brought to our community, there will be no opportunity to turn back.

The most cynical aspect is that voters in “chosen” counties do not have an avenue to say ‘No” by carrying a majority of the local vote in opposition. To pass the vote in the General Assembly for a referendum, Prince Georges and Montgomery County would only give their support if their counties were eliminated as possible sites for slots. With these counties proximity to the highly populated Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. and their own millions of people, the states share of revenue would probably meet projections. The message is clear. Not in my backyard but yours is fine! Does this seem right?

Because of the odd set of locations, the most recent independent study by UMBC warns that the states share of slot revenue may only be half of what was originally projected. With slots in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware, visitors from those states coming to Maryland to gamble would be minimal. When you factor in the loss of tax revenue from the current lottery system and also calculate the cost to the state for infrastructure and social ills, and a decrease in tax receipts from existing tourism related tax producers, the state’s share of the slot revenue may only represent a break even. If the UMBC study is correct, the only winner will be the gambling industry.

Another discussion point has been the impact on property value. Good honest people can disagree on the issue of bringing slot machines to our community, however, the idea of increased property value is an unbelievable stretch. Having a slot machine emporium near your community will hurt home values for the same reasons Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties refused to be considered a possible location.

Many good people enjoy slot machines and want Maryland to have slot machine gambling, and that feeling may be enough to win the vote in Worcester County. But, it is not a “no brainer” when the very real risk of failure is considered and we recognize who the potential losers will be. It certainly does not help the pro-slot effort when their cynicism in choosing locations and campaign strategies are exposed.

Let’s ask our leaders for a serious and thoughtful plan to address our states current problems. If slots are part of that mix, a future referendum should allow counties with a majority of voters in opposition to decline slots. That would be a fair and honest campaign.     

Michael James

Ocean City

(The writer is a general manager of the Carousel Resort Hotel & Condominiums and a former chairman of Maryland Tourism Development Board.)

Building Code Updates

Will Increase Costs

Editor:

I am very disappointed in our local news organization for failing to report on the Ocean City Council’s recent actions that will significantly increase the cost of constructing or repairing any property in Ocean City. During the Sept. 30, 2008 work session, the Ocean City Council approved, in about 40 minutes, recommendations from the chief building inspector to update Ocean City building codes. Many of these four codes can run up to 300 pages each. The next step for these recommendations is to put them in ordinance form for formal passage by the council. Every Ocean City property owner, many of which have returned to their winter residences, need to know how these updated building codes will result in significant increases in their building costs. Since Ocean City’s cost of living is already 28.44 percent higher than the U.S. average, these building code changes will only reinforce the image that Ocean City is an expensive town to live or visit.

In supporting the need for the updated recommendations, the Chief Building Inspector made numerous references to the Community Rating System (CRS) provision of the flood insurance program. This argument has no legal foundation for requiring any action. According to CRS publications, the CRS is a voluntary program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities. For example, the chief building inspector said that another community’s flood insurance premiums could be increased about 5 percent because the community does not require the use of high impact windows in new construction. According to the chief building inspector, the high impact windows are double the price of the current replacement windows.

The chief building inspector indicated to the council members that if Ocean City does not require the use of high impact windows in certain new construction, flood insurance premiums could expect to increase by about 5 percent. If one considers that the average flood insurance premium is about $200 per residence, a 5-percent increase results in a $10 annual increase. If the high impact window will cost about $300 more that the regular replacement window, it would take about 30 years to recover the increased costs.

The chief building inspector is also requiring all new outside air conditioning units to be raised up to four feet off the ground by means of an elevated platform. The height requirement pertains to all replacements not just those for new construction. Currently there is no legal requirement in the Ocean City code or the National Flood Insurance program requiring the replacement of an outside air conditioning unit to be raised off the ground. That means that property owners in Little Salisbury, Montego Bay and Caine Woods communities will be made by a bureaucrat’s fiat to raise any new air conditioning units up to four feet off the ground. This situation is a prime example of the classic bureaucratic overkill. And what happens to these elevated air conditioning unit platforms during any flooding, velocity flow in a coastal area will shatter the wooden supports and dislocate the unit.

Unfortunately, council members were very passive or made comments during this discussion that showed they failed to understand the issues. For example, Council President Joe Mitrecic said that it is a requirement of the flood insurance program that outside air conditioning units be raised off the ground. The council president is simply misinformed. There is no provision in the Ocean City code or the flood insurance program that legally compels that outside air conditioning units be raised off the ground when it is simply being replaced.

It is unfortunate that the city bureaucrats are recommending actions that will greatly increase the costs to construct or repair any property in Ocean City while the council members and the press passively sit by and permit the updated building code to go into effect with little public notice.

Joseph H. Potter

Ocean City

Support Overwhelming

Editor:

On behalf of the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce and the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude for the incredible support of our inaugural Harbor Day at the Docks event.

Celebrating the resort’s maritime heritage was long overdue as fishermen were the area’s first businessmen.  The event would not have been possible without the support of the numerous volunteers and businesses that donated money and offered in-kind services. We would also like to thank the Town of Ocean City and Worcester County for their support. 

The fishing industry is to be commended for their cooperation in making the event a true success. Their willingness to share all aspects of their traditions educated many children, as well as adults. It is our hope that with everyone working as a team, we will be able to continue to generate the much-needed awareness.  As Ocean City’s core economic engine, when tourism thrives, everyone wins. Thanks again.

Susan Jones, Melanie Pursel and Ruth Waters

(The writers comprise the event’s steering committee.)

Best Candidate Won

Editor:

I want to express my sincere thanks and congratulations to Lisa Hall for winning the District 2 Berlin council seat. I started attending council meetings in July of 2008 and attended the special meetings regarding the electric system for the town all the way up to the election. I never once heard Lisa become rude or

ignorant to any matter. I feel good about our new council member and think she will do a great job in her new position.

Of course, some people know me and know that I couldn’t write this letter without complaining about something. It was back in August when I attended a meeting and spoke my mind regarding the debt of the electric plant and my feeling that the contractors should be assessed a fee to help bring our power plant up to speed. I was confronted by Troy Purnell after the meeting and he was very professional in speaking with me on the issues. During my conversation with Troy, there were other people around us, one of which was Thom Gulyas, another candidate who ran for District 2 council. The next day I found out that Thom went behind my back and told someone that I needed to attend more council meetings before I open my mouth regarding anything.

Well Thom, if I remember right all the meetings I’ve attended it was Lisa Hall who would speak up and not you. Never once did you express your concern towards anything at the meetings I attended.  I never once saw you at my house politicking like Lisa Hall or Rex Hailey did. The money it cost you to print up your fliers was wasted as I threw your ads right in the trash. Oh wait that was a tax write off for you. Sorry to say you have to work to win and I guess karma is a you know what for you because it all came back to you.

Congratulations again Lisa for doing a great job in earning your position and running a good honest campaign.

Gerri Fentress

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