Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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The offseason is a time for ideas and discussion for Ocean City’s government, and much of that is inevitably taking place during the current strategic planning initiative process.

It may sound a bit nutty at first, but I have often wondered about the realities of Ocean City annexing West Ocean City to Route 611 or at least Golf Course Road.

It turns out the idea might not be too crazy after all, as I see it appeared at least as a talking point in the Ocean City Leaders Guide, a working document that is part of the strategic plan effort that ramped up this week with city staff weighing in and participating in a brainstorming workshop of sorts at the convention center.

This annexation was most likely referring to land grabs within the town, such as the long-desired but rarely discussed goal of obtaining the north-end movie theater for a new park-and-ride and transit facility. However, we think annexation talk of West Ocean City should be put on the table and evaluated.

Whenever the topic of tax differential surfaces, I often wonder whether Ocean City would find it more worthwhile to annex a portion of West Ocean City, which is not a municipality as some believe.

It’s something germane to the discussion involving tax differential and the town’s desire to see Ocean City property owners pay a lower tax rate because of duplicated services, such as recreation and fire protection, rather than continue to secure grant funding from the county.

Annexing West Ocean City has been discussed informally in the past and the conclusion has always been it would cause more harm than good, but perhaps it could use another review, which would need to weigh the new tax revenues against the additional expenses that would come along with an expanded municipal boundary as well as the inevitable practical concerns.

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The County Commissioners sung a familiar tune in Snow Hill this week, crying how unfair the state is and how Maryland keeps taking and taking from the counties. It’s true on many fronts, but the same old pointing of fingers to Annapolis has gotten quite boring over the years.

There comes a time to adapt and move on and understand the state’s treatment of the shore counties is unfair and probably always has been. Some of it could be political, as local residents tend to vote Republican and Maryland is a Democratic-controlled state. More likely, it’s just due to math. Simply put, there are more people west of the Bay Bridge and what they want matters more.

Resident Laura Dover weighed in on the state’s treatment of Worcester during a public review of the county’s capital improvement plan.

“What can we, as concerned citizens of Worcester County, do to help you?” she asked the commission. “Because, it just sounds like there’s a lot of nonsense coming out of the state and they’re really not listening to you.”

The commissioners told Dover to write and call the Eastern Shore’s state delegates and representatives whenever she has a concern. Additionally, they asked that she and all interested members of the public start turning out to express their opinions more often at public hearings.

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Recent statistics seem to confirm what many are saying about the local real estate market — it’s slowly improving. In nearly all categories in Worcester and Wicomico counties, properties appear to be moving at a better clip, as listings are decreasing and settlements are rising Here’s a breakdown courtesy of figures compiled by the Coastal Association of Realtors.

OC Condominiums: Through the first 11 months of the year, active listings are down 25 percent, from 1,186 in 2011 to 890; contracts have jumped from 747 to 852, a 14-percent increase; and settlements have increased 6 percent, from 718 last year to 758. For November, the average sale price was reported as $286,379 compared to an average listing price of $302,150.

OC Single-Family Homes: Total active listings through the first 11 months of the year are 145 compared to 168 last year, representing a 14-percent decline. Contracts jumped 13 percent, from 79 in 2011 to 89 in 2012. Similarly, settlements increased 18 percent, from 71 to 84 after 11 months in 2012. The average sale price of the four settlements in November was $360,000 with the listing price at $382,500.

Worcester Condominiums: A 24-percent decrease has been registered through the first 11 months in active listings, from 1,277 in 2011 to 967 in 2012. Contracts have jumped 14 percent, from 783 in 2011 to 893 in 2012, and settlements have climbed 5 percent, from 754 to 790 in 2012. The average sale price in November was $277,844 compared to average listing price of $293,044.

Worcester Single-Family Homes: Listings continue to decline through the first 11 months, recording a 22-percent dip from 659 in 2011 to 516 in 2012. As expected, contracts have increased, but only modestly from 505 through the first 11 months of 2011 to 512 through November 2012. Similarly, settlements increased by 1 percent, from 505 to 512 through November of 2012. The average sale price of the 42 settlements in November came in at $308,526 compared to an average listing price of $330,840.

Wicomico County Single-Family Homes: The same trend held in Wicomico County with active listings down 20 percent year to date compared to the same period in 2011, from 621 in 2011 to 496 this year. Contracts are up 2 percent, while settlements actually decreased. Of the 31 properties sold, the average sale price was $156,802 compared to the average listing price of $164,451.

One comment on “Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

  1. Although I do dislike when our County Commissioners choose to “pass” when they too can step up to the State Delegates and Representatives, a point is crystal clear – EACH of us must contact our State Del’s and Reps. More voices (which should include our County Commish’s) speaking out does invoke change. Remember, our City is the 2nd larges during Summer-time. When incidents like storms (SANDY) or fiscal challenges (mis-management or poor economic situations) ensue, VOICES must remind Annapolis that we are an important $$$$ maker for them. No voices, nothing gets done and those WEST of the Bay Bridge will continue to reap the bennies!

    ~BUSHMAN!~

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