OCEAN CITY – Regulations placed on the resort’s scooter rental industry in town to improve public safety moved one step closer to final approval this week with just a couple of tweaks made. Back on Jan. 31, the Mayor and Council passed an ordinance to establish a 90-day moratorium on the issuance of new or renewed business licenses for scooter rentals. The council became concerned over the proliferation of scooter rental businesses in town and the safety issues that have occurred.
The first order of business this week was to extend the moratorium on the issuance of business licenses associated with the rental or sale of vehicles such as scooters and scoot coupes. The previous moratorium expires on April 30 and the ordinances regulating the scooter rental industry are not scheduled to pass on second reading until May 7. The council voted 5-2, Council members Joe Hall and Brent Ashley opposed, to extend the moratorium until May 15.
The recommendations of the Planning and Zoning Commission were formed into two ordinances because they entail changes and additions to different sections of Ocean City’s code, business licenses and zoning.
The council discussed the ordinance to amend a chapter of Entitled Zoning, which would change the conditional use section to allow for rental of small displacement vehicles.
A concern was raised to subject existing scooter rental operators to the conditional use process, which would regulate items such as establishing scooter rental businesses, too close in vicinity.
“Just to get around the good operators that have been operating for years and have done all the right things, could we just start it [conditional use] today,” Council President Jim Hall said. “In other words, the present operations would not have to go through the conditional use process.”
Ashley and Joe Hall were against government interference altogether.
“The problem with conditional use is it brings it back before the council,” Ashley said. “We get too much into regulating businesses, and I think that is part of the problem that we have.”
Ron Croker, owner of Waterways Marina/OC Scooter, agreed with the direction the council was moving in.
“We just want to make sure that without causing any harm to free enterprise or competition that we do keep a little bit of space between us and we think we can accomplish that through the criteria of conditional use, and the reason is … when you are putting someone down the road in a motorized vehicle, it is much different, you have congestion and you have traffic,” Croker said.
Councilwoman Mary Knight set a motion for existing scooter rental businesses to be exempt from the conditional use process as long as they meet all of the rules and regulations the other ordinance set in place and the council approved in a 5-2 vote, with Ashley and Joe Hall opposed.
The zoning ordinance allows for the rental of motor scooters, mopeds, scoot coops and similar motorized vehicles will only be permitted in the following districts: Local Commercial, Shopping Center, Bayside Mixed Use, the two Boardwalk Commercial, Downtown Mixed Use, and Manufacturing Districts.
Planning and Community Development Director Jesse Houston pointed out that the Bayside Marine District was not included and the correction was made.
Next, the council approved an ordinance that added rules and regulations for small displacement vehicles, such as mopeds, motor scooters and scoot coups, in a 5-2 vote, Ashley and Joe Hall opposed.
One new regulation is the licensee must provide instruction and training to each customer in advance of the rental of the vehicle. The licensee must provide a training area on the premise of the business or on other private property within a reasonable walking distance of the business.