Ocean City Makes Slight Tweaks To Smoking Regs; Sunset Park Added To Ordinance

Ocean City makes

OCEAN CITY — Tougher restrictions on beach smoking and other areas of the resort inched closer to becoming a reality last week when the Mayor and Council approved the ordinance on first reading.

Last Thursday, the City Council unanimously approved on first reading the ordinance that would restrict smoking on the beach to designated, marked smoking areas with proper receptacles for discarding cigarette butts. The designated smoking areas would be located on the beach at each street from the Inlet to the Delaware line with a few exceptions.

The version approved by the council last Thursday included a few tweaks, including the addition of Sunset Park to the list of other public parks already written into the legislation. Also officially added last week at first reading were the covered bus stop shelters throughout the resort. Town officials also lessened the required maximum distance from a designated smoking area from the proposed 20 feet to 15 feet.

The council’s first reading approval last week sets in motion the final implementation phase of what has been a lengthy process. Last April, the Mayor and Council first broached the smoking ban issue and voted 5-2 to restrict smoking on the beach effective May 1, 2015 and directed staff to prepare an implementation plan. As a result, a Smoking Policy Committee, comprised of town staffers and other community representative, was tasked with developing an implementation plan.

The resulting plan presented in January includes a designated smoking area on the beach near each street end from the Inlet to the Delaware line. An outright ban on the Boardwalk is planned with smokers asked to head to the designated sites on the beach to smoke. The ordinance also includes non-nicotine Electronic Smoking Devices (ESDs), which have proliferated recently.

The designated smoking areas will include bright orange receptacles with lids that display the town’s new restricted smoking logo. There will be one receptacle per street located on the beach east of the sea wall in the Boardwalk area and 50 feet north of the street end and east of and 50 feet north of the dune entrances in the area north of the Boardwalk.

The restricted smoking areas will also apply in each of the town’s public parks. Sunset Park along the bay at South Division Street was initially omitted from the original version of the bill, but the council added the park prior to approving it on first reading last Thursday.

“I didn’t think the Inlet lot was included,” said Councilman Wayne Hartman. “I also wonder if Sunset Park should have been included.”

City Solicitor Guy Ayres said the council had the opportunity to amend the proposed ordinance to add or subtract any areas they wanted to.

“Sunset Park wasn’t included, but you can make any changes you want,” said Ayres. “This is only first reading.”

After some discussion, the council approved the ordinance on first reading after adding Sunset Park and the covered bus stops in the resort. The council also voted to reduce the maximum distance while smoking from the designated smoking areas from 20 feet to 15 feet. There was some discussion about adding the Inlet parking lot to the ordinance, but it was omitted on the version approved on first reading.

Councilman Dennis Dare pointed out the maps did not show designated smoking areas at the street ends at 3rd, 5th, 7th and 8th Streets. City Manager David Recor said the ordinance could again be amended prior to final approval.

“There are 14 designated smoking areas up to 9th Street,” he said. “There was some question of whether certain areas were eliminated. Also, would you like to push them further east so they are more convenient for beachgoers?”

Dare said the absence of designated smoking areas at those streets appeared to run counter of the intent.

“Our philosophy was to have designated smoking areas at every street end,” he said. “I don’t know why there isn’t one at 3rd Street for example.”

Recor suggested placing designated smoking areas at those streets in question closer to the middle of the beach. Ayres again said the council has the option of amending the ordinance to make adjustments after the new policy is implemented.

“That’s why it’s written as a resolution,” he said. “You can add, subtract or move them at your discretion.”

The receptacles, signage and educational materials associated with implementing the new smoking policy comes with a price tag of around $40,000. The Maryland Cancer Fund has awarded the town a one-time grant of $18,762 for materials, and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has committed the balance of the cost.

 

 

Star Charities Presents Check For $4,500 To Wounded Soldiers

Community C

Star Charities founder Anna Foultz and her volunteers presented a check for $4,500 on Feb. 19 to Maj. General Jim Adkins (retired), Maryland National Guard, to benefit Wounded Soldiers in Maryland. Accepting the check with Adkins was Col. Charles Kohler, also of the Maryland National Guard. The money was raised through Star Charities’ annual Beef and Beer event last month. Pictured, from left, are Ocean Pines Association President Dave Stevens, Lee Tilghman, Kohler, Foultz, Mrs. Adkins, Adkins, Paul Mazzei, Sandy McAbee, and Peggy Rumberg. Photo by Ted Page

Seahawks End Regular Season On A High Note

BERLIN- Stephen Decatur’s boys’ varsity basketball team ended its regular season on an up note this week, beating Kent Island, 60-45, on the road on Monday.

Last Saturday, the Seahawks lost a tough one on the road against Parkside in a game rescheduled because of last week’s snow cancellations. Decatur fell to the Rams, 69-61, in overtime. Keve Aluma led the Seahawks with 15 points, while Dequan Andrews and Tyree Henry each scored 13 points.

Decatur hit the road again on Monday for the regular season finale against Kent Island. The Seahawks closed out what was an up and down regular season with a 60-45 win as Henry scored 13 points.

Despite their 9-13 regular season mark, there is much to be hopeful about for the Seahawks. The team was young, but talented this year and showed obvious signs of growing pains throughout the long season, but with a returning nucleus and some talented players from the junior varsity that got a chance to move up late in the year, the future looks bright for Coach B.J. Johnson’s program.

Survey Wraps Up Berlin Strategic Plan Effort

BERLIN – Area residents have one more chance to share their ideas for Berlin’s future as the town enters the final stage of the strategic planning process.

Between now and March 5, citizens can share their thoughts and concerns for Berlin’s future through a survey available both online and at Berlin Town Hall.

“We really want your input,” Mayor Gee Williams said.

The survey is designed to collect feedback from those who didn’t attend one of the four community input sessions hosted by the town and strategic planning facilitator Christine Becker during the past month. In all, Williams said 120 people, not counting council members and local officials, took part in the sessions.

“I was delighted with the public participation at the strategic planning sessions, both in terms of attendance and enthusiasm,” he said, adding that residents came out for the meetings in spite of this month’s bitterly cold temperatures. “I take it as visible evidence that there is a lot of interest and pride in our town.”

Williams said the ideas presented by citizens were inspiring and would be useful as town officials drafted the strategic plan. He said he was encouraged by the fact that residents of various ages and from a range of different backgrounds had similar hopes and dreams for Berlin.

“I was particularly pleased with the diversity of the people who turned out, not just racial diversity, which I expected, but that there was a broad cross section of people who had lived in Berlin for over 25 years down to those who had lived here a year or less,” Williams said.

He said the meetings revealed that there was broad support for more parks and recreational facilities in town. At the same time, citizens said they didn’t want too much change.

Councilmember Lisa Hall was pleased to hear that residents wanted to make sure the town retained its unique character.

“The residents in Berlin expressed their love of Berlin and how they want to protect and maintain the special charm of Berlin,” Hall said.

After data from the survey has been compiled, the council will participate in a two-day work session March 11-12 to review the information that’s been gathered and draft a list of priorities for the next three years.

“The obvious challenge is that it will be the responsibility for the Mayor and Council to chart a course that over time provides the many wonderful amenities the citizens want, but in a way that does not add to their tax burden,” Williams said.

The final strategic plan will be presented at a council meeting in the spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City Council’s Split Vote Derails Wind Turbine Effort

City

OCEAN CITY — After a years-long effort to obtain the necessary state and federal approvals and a favorable recommendation from the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, a downtown property owner last week was denied an opportunity to erect a private wind turbine on his bayfront property by the City Council.

For the last few years, Jim Motsko has been working to secure the necessary permits and approvals to put up a 39-foot tall wind turbine on his bayfront property on 6th Street. He had to secure approvals from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) because of the proposed wind turbine’s proximity to the bay and the navigation channels.

The City Council amended the town code to allow wind turbines as a conditional use in certain R-2 residential areas with stringent safeguards in place in terms of height and required setbacks from adjacent properties. Motsko also got little pushback from neighboring properties, save for a few concerns about aesthetics, potential noise and impacts on bay views. Finally, after a public hearing late last year, the Planning Commission voted 6-0 to send a favorable recommendation to the City Council for final approval.

Having crossed those hurdles, it appeared final approval from the City Council would be a slam dunk heading into last Thursday’s Council meeting. In the end, however, the council voted 3-2 to approve the requested conditional use for the wind turbine, but the measure failed because four votes were needed and with two council members absent, Motsko came up just one vote short for the approval.

Councilmembers Lloyd Martin, Dennis Dare and Doug Cymek voted to approve the wind turbine, while Tony DeLuca and Wayne Hartman voted against the measure. Council members Mary Knight and Matt James were absent. While he fell just one vote short, the issue is not entirely dead. Motsko could bring the request back for a vote before the full council if four members of the council are willing to revisit the matter. Presuming DeLuca and Hartman would not change their votes, Motsko would need Knight or James to support the measure to gain approval.

DeLuca said he did not support the measure for a variety of reasons.

“It sounds like a lot to maintain and regulate and I don’t support it at this time,” he said. “I think there is a problem with the sound, problems with migratory birds, problems with aesthetics and problems with the perception, and perception is reality. I support the integrity of the neighborhood.”

The issue with potential noise was a recurring theme during the discussion. Some on the council pointed to another approved wind turbine on the Boardwalk at 15th Street. The turbine did run for a time, but has since been derailed by a problem with the electric connection. Mayor Rick Meehan said while the turbine was active, he never noticed any problems with the noise.

“I was up there a lot when it was spinning and I didn’t hear any noise,” he said. “The problem was with the electrical connection and not with the turbine itself.”

Meehan said noise coming from boats and other activity on the bay in the area of 6th Street would outweigh any noise created by the wind turbine.

“Mr. Motsko has worked for a number of years to bring the right product,” he said. “It’s right on the bay front and the ambient noise from the bay will far exceed any noise from the wind turbine.”

Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith said the amended code allowing the conditional use was thorough in terms of setbacks, heights and decibel levels, and Motsko’s proposed wind turbine had met all of the conditions.

“There are at least 14 conditions in the code as a conditional use,” he said. “There are many safeguards in place. All those things go with the approval.”

Smith said there was little to no opposition to the proposed turbine during the Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing on the project in December, including a new condominium project.

“The new condo was sent a notice,” he said. “They could have opposed if they wanted.”

Some on the council voiced concern about the precedent the proposed wind turbine might set. Smith said there were few areas in town that met the stringent requirements, and Martin said the code amendment was written to prevent the proliferation of wind turbines all over the resort.

“We’ve gone back and forth on this and beat it up pretty good,” he said. “We worked on it very hard to make sure it wouldn’t pop up just anywhere.”

The council voted 3-2 to approve the measure, but the request failed because it needed four votes. Meehan voiced some displeasure with the vote, suggesting if the proposed bayfront 6th Street location did not meet approval, then few if any would.

“I think this is such a good location,” he said. “If you’re not going to grant this, you might as well get rid of the ordinance. If you don’t approve this here, where would you approve it?”

Meehan pointed to the stringent approval process Motsko, a local Realtor whose founded and operates the White Marlin Open, went through just to get it before a vote by the council.

“If you don’t want windmills, we need to take a look at the ordinance,” he said. “I don’t want to put somebody through this again. I don’t think there is another spot as conducive for this.”

The council could revisit the issue, but four members of the council will need to support bringing the matter back before the full council. At this time, it’s unclear if the number is there to have the seven-member council reconsider the matter at a future meeting.

 

Vanishing Ocean City With Bunk Mann

vanishing 2-27

Much like the rise of the motel in the 1950s, the growth of condominiums in the 1970s changed the look and lifestyle of Ocean City.

The first high-rise condo — the High Point South — was built by John Whaley in 1970 and within three years a stretch of beach in North Ocean City had become known as the “Gold Coast.” Over a mile of tall buildings towered over the beach and more restaurants, bars and shops sprang up to meet this new generation of property owners.

By 1973, high interest rates, overbuilding and the gas crisis combined to burst the bubble and the glory days quickly ended. Banks failed, developers went broke and sales dropped dramatically. The real estate market would eventually recover but there has never been another building frenzy like the Gold Coast condo boom of the early ‘70s.

Photo by Bill Fuhrer

Disappointing Decision On OC Wind Turbine

typewriter

Government bodies are typically quite predictable in their decision making, but that was not the case last week when a resident’s years-long effort to build a wind turbine on his property failed to get approved by the Ocean City Mayor and Council.

Indeed it was quite surprising to see Ocean City resident Jim Motsko’s wind turbine journey come to an abrupt halt after falling short of the needed votes from the city’s elected officials.

The City Council’s 3-2 vote in support of the wind turbine on 6th Street and the bay on private property means the project is doomed unless the council revisits the issue when the full seven-member body is present. The project needs four yay votes to proceed, and it was clear that fact was not known by everyone in attendance at City Hall during this dialogue.

The entire council should have heard this issue, and we surmise that would have been the case if the city manager and council president, the two individuals who typically craft the council agenda, knew the issue was going to divide the council in such a fashion.

With so much riding on the vote and the fact Motsko has been put through the regulatory gauntlet over the last several years with this project, the private wind turbine merited the full council’s consideration. Instead, as it stands, the project has been rejected, although it was a favored by three of the five council members present.

Supporting the project were Council members Doug Cymek, Dennis Dare and Lloyd Martin; opposed were new Council members Tony DeLuca and Wayne Hartman; and absent were Matt James and Mary Knight. Although he doesn’t have a vote, Mayor Rick Meehan clearly supported the move and had some harsh words for the naysayers.

“I think this is such a good location. If you’re not going to grant this, you might as well get rid of the ordinance. If you don’t approve this here, where would you approve it?,” Meehan said. “If you don’t want windmills, we need to take a look at the ordinance. I don’t want to put somebody through this again. I don’t think there is another spot as conducive for this.”

Last week’s vote was a shame and a poor result, but the council has a chance to right a wrong. The full council needs to weigh in on this issue. If that happens, we would hope for a different outcome because last week’s vote was not the right decision.

 

 

 

Baby Boomer Event Eyed For OC In October

OCEAN CITY — In the hopes of exploiting a potentially untapped market and creating an off-season, mid-week special event, town recreation officials this week entertained a proposal for a special event in October aimed at baby boomers.

At the Recreation and Parks Committee meeting on Tuesday, Ocean City Special Events Director Frank Miller pitched a conceptual plan for an event in October aimed at attracting the 50-plus senior crowd. The event is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 12-15, a Monday through Friday event wedged between Cruisin’ and Corvette weekends. Miller said the idea was borne out of discussions on how to tap the baby boomer demographic with 50-plus year-olds on the young end and 70 year-olds on the other end.

“We were tossing around some ideas, and we found the town really doesn’t have an event that caters to the older crowd,” he said. “We’re talking about the baby boomer crowd that would enjoy all Ocean City has to offer in the offseason. Statistically, they’re a pretty affluent bunch that accounts for 80 percent of all luxury travel.”

The event is conceptually called the Boomerang Club. Miller said he envisioned attendees getting a plastic membership card that entitled the holder to special discounts at restaurants and businesses, admission to market specific special events such as dances and other retro-classic activities and discounted hotel and motel packages.

“This group is a very large market, and it’s going to stay a large group for a long time,” he said. “It’s a worthwhile target market to go after.”

Miller said October was chosen as a tentative time of the year for the proposed special event because the town is less crowded, plenty of businesses are still open and the weather is generally favorable for walks on the beach and Boardwalk and other health-related endeavors. In addition, putting the mid-week special event between the Corvette weekend and Cruisin’ could promote longer stays because they generally appeal to the same demographic.

“This market segment can do mid-week trips. Most businesses are still open and we’re always hearing about the need for more mid-week events,” Miller said.

Recreation and Parks Committee members embraced the idea.

“I think this is a great concept,” said Councilman Dennis Dare. “It looks like something that could really grow over time.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman added, “All of the businesses want weekday events. If we can get this to work, it could become a great event.”

 

Relay For Life Chairwomen Hodge And Elliott Honored By American Cancer Society With 2014 Nationwide Top 10 Award

Community D

Relay For Life of North Worcester Chairwomen Dawn Hodge and Jill Elliott are honored by American Cancer Society Community Manager Debbie White for the 2014 nationwide top 10 per capita award, at the Relay For Life Kickoff at Community Church of Ocean Pines on Jan. 27.  This year’s Relay For Life will be held Friday, May 8 at Frontier Town.