OCEAN CITY – On Monday night, a message rang loud and clear at City Hall that enforcement is taking place and citations are being written for those scooter rental operators who cannot abide by the law.
New laws placing firmer rules and regulations on the scooter rental industry to increase safety in Ocean City are in effect. The deliberations have been done, public hearings have been held, and the ordinances have been passed, yet ongoing issues continue.
The unscheduled discussion began this week when the co-owner of Scooter City, who asked not to have her name released, approached the Mayor and City Council with complaints over the new rules and regulations that her own business has struggled to abide by but neighboring scooter rentals have not.
She operates a scooter rental business in New York and has moved her operation to Ocean City for the summer season in the past three years. They have three locations 2nd, 18th and 34th streets.
“We feel like there has been a lot of discouragement to our business in this industry because a lot of the things that we do to promote our business have been cut off, such as the displaying of our scooters and advertising a lot of things that we would have normally done before to encourage folks to come into our shop, we cannot do any longer,” she said.
Conditions included in the new law regarding scooter rental operations are the display of vehicles may not be done in required parking spaces of an establishment, when the business is closed vehicles must be stored within a building or temporary storage container and sales transactions must take place inside a building.
“We find that a lot of these new rules that have been passed in the last two months have not been addressed fairly,” the co-owner of Scooter City said. “Some of our competition has violated many of these rules and their still open and conducting business and we have done everything we can to abide by the rules.”
The competition she repeatedly referred to is Island Cycles, which also has multiple locations including a neighboring business to Scooter City on 2nd street. She stated that the competition has continued to display and store their vehicles outdoors as well as conduct transactions outdoors.
“I find that is an issue that needs to be addressed,” she said. “I feel like if we are doing everything we can to stay in business and we are being discouraged … I feel like it is time that we cash our chips and leave Ocean City because it has been a long haul.”
She furthered her husband, who runs Scooter City on 2nd Street, is unable to display scooters in front of the business and is missing customers.
“People don’t even know he exists,” she said. “They walk right by him because the guy on the corner openly violates … we are being really hurt this year. Already it is three weeks into the season, we have had a major holiday, and normally we would have made triple the amount then we made. We took a big hit.”
She asked that since two of her employees at Scooter City on 18th Street drive their personal scooters to work and park in required parking spaces, if rental scooters could be displayed in those spaces as well.
Mayor Rick Meehan suggested for Scooter City to take the request before the Board of Zoning Appeals.
“We do want all of our rules and laws to be carried out equally … they should be enforced the same for everybody and everybody should play by the same rules,” the mayor said.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said the Planning and Zoning Commission has received evidence that Island Cycles is in violation, and Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith had visited the establishment that day. Information had been forwarded to the council regarding the matter stating citations were to be given.
“I think you are going to continue to see abuse until people understand the council is serious and we will be giving citations,” Pillas said.
The citation process begins with a warning, followed by a $100 fine leading up to a $500 fine a day if the business does not comply.
“I can tell you our Zoning Administrator has been down there and he is on it … and I think you are going to see a change to some of this,” Council President Jim Hall said. “When we started regulating taxis to make them safe and inspected and regulated, we went through all of this for years and that business has settled down. It is more professional, it is well run, and we just don’t have the problems anymore from the past. There is a little bit of growing pains but you will learn to be successful here if you follow the law, and we are doing this for safety, and want to make sure that we have a competitive environment and everybody is safe, so please hang with us.” Sean Crosariol of Water Ways Marina/O.C. Scooters in Ocean City related to Scooter City’s pain.
“Competitors are just not doing it,” he said. “I just don’t think citations are going to be enough … but if you could start pulling businesses licenses, that is the only way I think … $100 is nothing, it is a joke.”