Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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When settling a stalemate, a telltale sign the right call was made is when neither side is thrilled with the outcome. That can sum up the situation involving the property on 64th Street. Ocean City and property owner Rick Laws have come to an unofficial agreement to transfer ownership of the land for $5.1 million. Reached this week, Laws and city officials indicated the deal was a result of a meeting of the minds. If the issue went to court, Laws would have likely received more than the deal on the table currently. On the other hand, the city said it forked over quite a bit more than it expected for the property. All in all, the public and private interests were served well with the deal. The city can address what it feels are major short- and long-term infrastructure issues, and the property owner can take his money and look for another site to build a national chain hotel.

Additionally, it was revealed this week Little Salisbury residents could benefit from the property transaction, as City Manager Dennis Dare confirmed the city’s new land, most recently home to the Slide ‘N Ride, could host a new public boat ramp. Little Salisbury residents have long complained about the public boat ramp being in the middle of a dense housing community. They have good reason to bark because long lines of boaters form on summer weekends and some unfortunate antics by intoxicated boaters have made matters a little hairy in that area for years. If the new ramp is built at some point, it’s unknown whether the Little Salisbury facility would be closed, but surely there will be a rally among the citizens to do just that.

More so than ever, it’s an interesting time to keep an eye on certain figures indicating business health in Ocean City. Here are a few I have been watching:

Room tax: The last available figures from the Worcester County Treasurer’s Office are for March, and they show a significant surge for Ocean City’s lodging industry. A 20-percent increase in room tax revenue was reported in March with $223,553 in room tax revenue reported compared to $186,460 last March. Through the first three months of the year compared to the same time period in 2009, room tax revenue is up 1 percent.

Food tax: The news was not so bright for food tax collections, as receipts are down 22 percent so far this year. In March, specifically, the decline was 15 percent. These figures were compiled by doubling the current collection rate to match the percentage used last year.

Demoflush: Questions could be raised on the legitimacy of these figures based on all the snow over the winter, but the population estimates, based on wastewater flow, show the first four months of this year were excellent for Ocean City. According to demoflush, crowds were up 15 percent from January through April of 2010, from 1,502,576 in 2009 to 1,727,347. For further comparison, the first four months of 2008 recorded 1,484,254.

Real Estate: The latest market reports for Worcester County and Ocean City are a mixed bag. For the most part, listings are down and settlements are up, signaling some realistically-priced properties are selling at an improved clip.

In Ocean City, condominium settlements through April are up 19 percent with 235 units changing hands compared to 197 in the first four months of 2009. Active listings have dipped 8 percent, from 1,585 in 2009 at this point to 1,452 in 2010. Contracts continue to surge, as a year-to-date look shows a 20-percent spike in the number of contracts written through the first calendar quarter.

For resort single-family homes, the struggle continues, as just 13 settlements have taken place so far this year, representing a 38-percent decline from the first four months of 2009.

As far as Worcester single-family homes go, the picture is a little brighter with an 8-percent spike in settlements recorded thus far in 2010.

On a side note, Wednesday marked five years since our founding publisher Dick Lohmeyer passed away. The old guy is long gone, yes, but surely not forgotten.

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