OCEAN CITY — Councilman Joe Hall thinks the numbers are way off, and it seems he’s keen on hammering that point home.
A seemingly normal presentation about future community planning and preparedness in Ocean City by Planning and Development Director Jesse Houston and Planner Bob Nelson got a bit heated on Tuesday as Hall decided to express his disdain for demoflush numbers once again.
As Houston outlined new information and projections that will be added to the town’s comprehensive plan, including a 1-percent-per-year local population increase, Hall chimed in to disagree with not only some of the numbers Houston was presenting, but the way that the town has been arriving at those numbers.
“There are people who are coming to town or investing in a property or a business here who think that we are welcoming eight million visitors a year when we get that number by using demoflush, which in my opinion is way off,” said Hall. “I don’t think there’s any way that we are welcoming that many people to town each year, and I think we need to strive to be much more accurate and at the very least, acknowledge that we are trying to find a better way.”
Houston had noted in his presentation that the estimated total number of condominiums in the town of Ocean City sat close to 28,000, the number of hotel rooms at right around 9,600 (however, leaving out the number of single family homes) which sparked a number of the council members seemingly doing off-the-cuff multiplication on their agenda notes trying to figure out what the exact number would be that the town would be considered full.
Council members took the total number of units (both hotel and condo) multiplied that number by four, as in estimated maximum guests in each room, and came up with a total number of people that would constitute the town flashing a proverbial “no vacancy” sign.
Simple multiplication will tell you that based on the projected number of hotel rooms and condominiums in Ocean City, the town’s so-called maximum limit is 150,400, which is about half of what the town projects on a given summer weekend in July and August.
Mayor Rick Meehan said although he agrees that the demoflush numbers are not totally accurate, he said that once you start to add in the number of day trippers, locals, residents of West Ocean City and surrounding areas, as well as single-family homes, the numbers add up quickly.
Meehan estimated the total number that should be used, which would include single-family homes, would be closer to 40,000.
“Multiplied by four, that’s still only 160,000 and if that is 100-percent occupancy, how do we all of a sudden jump to 300,000?” queried Hall. “That would mean that we have almost one person here for the day as we do for every paying overnight customer and I think we both know that’s not the case.”
It should also be noted that demoflush numbers take into account for the flourishing West Ocean City area, which flows all of its wastewater through a pipe underneath the bay and into the Ocean City wastewater treatment plant, and has done so since 1994, according to Public Works Director Hal Adkins in a previous interview concerning the debatable demoflush topic.
Meehan did shoot a little math back toward Hall, however, saying that if the town of Ocean City welcomed 80,000 people for 100 days that would reach the eight million visitors a year number that the town currently boasts.
“I don’t think that we are doing anyone a disservice to anyone who wants to invest in this town, or visit this town, by using a slightly flawed system,” said Councilwoman Mary Knight. “There hasn’t been a better way to gauge the numbers brought to us yet, and it’s not like the private sector will give us information like that, so I think it’s going to be hard for us to change.”
Houston estimated that demoflush projections were around 15 percent off, but he noted that the town prepares for the ballooned number, albeit a flawed one, as a precautionary measure to ensure that the town can host millions of visitors annually.
“We don’t really pay attention to the small number of the local population very much because we have to ready this town for the big number and that’s the visitors,” Houston said.
All numbers aside, the remainder of Houston’s presentation showed Ocean City to be in pretty good shape for the future, despite projections of little to no growth by way of number of housing units and only small incremental spikes in the population from now until 2030.
One striking statistic is that town of Ocean City has a tremendous water supply stored in its two aquifers, (totaling 500 billion gallons), which according to Nelson, will last the town for “about a century.”