Ocean City Seeking Five New Buses For Next Summer

OCEAN CITY – Months of discussion among Transportation Commission members regarding the purchase of buses to add to Ocean City’s fleet is nearing a head as the Mayor and City Council approved soliciting bids.

On Tuesday afternoon, Procurement Manager Catrice Parsons requested the Mayor and City Council’s approval to solicit proposals for three 40-foot transit buses as approved in the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget.

Parsons explained the Transportation Department requested permission from the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) to purchase 40-foot transit buses as part of the FY14 Annual Transportation Plan submission. The funding was approved. However, after unsuccessful attempts over many months of researching and dialogue with the MTA, the town was unable to find a governmental contract to “piggy back” off of for the three, 40-foot buses. The MTA then required the town to generate its own set of technical specifications.

Parsons furthered, currently the Procurement and Transportation Departments are creating a request for proposal that will be used nationally, contingent upon the MTA’s approval. These specifications will not only enable Ocean City to secure the buses that funding has been acquired for, but it will position other transit agencies to “order off of” the contract the town establishes.

Another item before the Mayor and City Council for approval is to “piggy back” off of Port Authority of Alleghany County’s RFP for the purchase of up to three, 60-foot articulating buses as approved in the FY15 Budget.

Parsons explained, as part of the FY15 Annual Transportation Plan submission, the Transportation Department requested the MTA’s permission to purchase 40-foot transit buses, which was approved. However, after dialogue with the Transportation Committee, the need for 60-foot articulating buses was established.

The Transportation Department took this request back to the MTA, who supported converting FY15 funding for the 40-foot buses.

Parsons furthered, the Transportation Department learned that the Port Authority contract has a “piggy back” clause and the city gained approval to be assigned to that contract.

The council voted unanimously to approve both the solicitations of bids for the three 40-foot buses, as well as to “piggy back” off of Port Authority’s RFP to solicit proposals for up to three, 60-foot articulating buses.

Discussion among the Transportation Commission regarding new bus purchases to meet the goal of increasing capacity and lessening driver dependency due to the issue of bus driver shortages started earlier this year.

At that time Public Works Director Hal Adkins explained in FY14 the town was awarded a grant in the amount of $1,362,000 to purchase three, 40-foot diesel buses, and the same was awarded in FY15 totaling $2,724,000 with a local match of 10 percent. The estimated cost for a 40-foot diesel bus is $425,000 that seats 35 with 18 standees. A 60-foot diesel articulating bus is about $700,000 that seats 63 with 31 standees.

The commission even considered the thought of adding double decker buses to the fleet. After some research, Risk Manager Eric Langstrom expressed concern over surveillance on the second floor as well as issues that may arise with ascending and descending stairs.

Langstrom furthered low hanging wires, the position of utility poles on corners where the double decker will be making turns and building overhangs on the transit stations would have to be reviewed.

Ocean City Police Department Capt. Kevin Kirstein acknowledged there are pros to double decker buses, such as the novelty factor, but the Town would have to hire security for the second floor.

Fleet Manager Ron Eckman added, storing and servicing double decker buses at the Public Works Complex will be a challenge as the vehicle would just barley fit into the shop and could only be lifted 2.5 feet off the ground before hitting the ceiling. Other issues included training to service a double decker bus, fitting the vehicle under the awning at the present fuel station and towing in the event of a malfunction.

The commission voted to have a RFP drafted for the purchase of three, 40-foot buses to be purchased by the FY14 grant and two artic buses to be purchased by FY15 grant funds.

Third Beach Toy Structure Eyed For Ocean City

OCEAN CITY – With a playground being proposed for North Division Street on the beach last month, the Recreation and Parks Commission decided this month to move forward with a Request For Proposal for a third and final beach toy to complete the series.

In April of 2013, the Recreation and Parks Commission agreed to not have the wooden playground structures, referred to as beach toys, return to the beach off the Boardwalk that summer once staff brought to the elected officials’ attention how the structures had become safety hazards as well as a nuisance with late-night shenanigans. Since then the commission, through the Recreation and Parks Department, has been exploring alternative avenues in replacing the beach toys.

Being the Public Works Department’s responsibility, for play equipment to be located on the beach it has to be removable during the off-season and in case of severe weather. The equipment also has to be able to endure the atmosphere of the beach as well as be safe and open.

In July 2014, Tow Boat US owner Greg Hall donated $1,000 towards purchasing additional beach play equipment and challenged others to do the same. Councilman Doug Cyemk and former Councilman Brent Ashley followed suit and each donated $500.

Last summer the first beach playground replacement of dinosaur bones was put on the beach at 3rd Street The structure includes three dinosaur climbing sections of a head, ribs, tail and three climbing eggs. The individual structures are made of PolyFiberCrete and weigh from 1,325 to 2,750 pounds. The play structure was available to the town for purchase at half the list price, which was $16,480 with a free delivery.

Last month, Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito came before the commission with the opportunity to use this year’s Community Parks and Playgrounds Grant funds to purchase a playground to go on the beach at North Division Street.

Usually the town uses the grant to replace playground equipment but Petito recommended using the grant funds to construct a traditional playground structure on the beach with multi-play pieces, such as slides, swings and climbers.

The only location identified to do so is on North Division Street that angles into the beach between the current concrete pad bump out and the wooden walkway.

As proposed, the playground would be a permanent fixture to avoid having to be moved in the time of storms. Therefore, the concrete pad bump out would be extended to affix the playground to the ground. The proper matting would be placed and the facility would be ADA accessible. Since it would be located next to the tram lane, a fence would be installed surrounding the playground.

The grant would cover the project 100 percent except for maintenance costs but the deadline is Aug. 19. With no time to waste, the commission approved the grant application and reported the action item to the full Mayor and Council.

The town will receive a response from the state on the grant in June of next year.

With donations still on the table, including an additional $2,000 from Greg Shockley of Shenanigans Irish Pub & Grille and the Shoreham Hotel, the department is still in search for another beach play structure to be placed at Somerset Street that they feel would complete the series.

“If in fact the playground comes through, we will have a series of play structures on the beach, and we would suggest that would be the limit,” Petito said on Tuesday. “If we move forward, I think we would have satisfied the need of the beach play structures.”

Petito pointed out the play structures at 3rd Street and Somerset Street would be the responsibility of Public Works as would the maintenance of the proposed playground at N. Division Street.

A RFP has been prepared to solicit bids for the subsequent beach play structure. Specifics are unknown at this time.

“Once we have determined what that particular toy will look like, we will go to the community looking for funding,” Petito said.

Commission Chair and Councilman Dennis Dare said securing another free play item for kids to enjoy on the beach would be contingent on the community’s support.

“If you recall, there were half dozen toy structures on the beach before from the Pier to 4th Street, and all along I thought the public would like to go back the series of play structures along that area of the beach,” Dare said. “The business community is still talking about buying another toy other than the playground that is proposed. Somerset Street seems to be a natural location as we try to draw people to that area. If the business community doesn’t want it, or doesn’t contribute to it then we won’t get it.”

Despite Business Fears, OC Moving Ahead With Auto Event Law Changes; Council Votes 5-2 On Proposed Ordinances

new pic for ordinance story

OCEAN CITY – The local business community voiced concerns Tuesday as the majority of the City Council voted to push through laws aimed at getting a grip on motor vehicle events.

For the last couple of years, city officials have been promising action to ease residents’ concerns when it comes to vehicular events in Ocean City and the Police Commission last month issued a favorable recommendation on several proposed changes to city laws.

The most recent event of concern was Cruisin’ in May with 3,400 classic cars officially registered for the event and tens of thousands of more “wannabes,” as the event promoter refers to them. While the officially registered participants appeared to be well behaved for the most part and attended the event’s official activities at the Inlet and Roland E. Powell Convention Center, the latter group raced up and down Coastal Highway and other streets, dumped trash in parking lots and left a considerable amount of rubber on the roads.

The Police Commission was tasked with finding other ways to better the events as far as enforcement goes. Ocean City officials visited Myrtle Beach where the resort enacted over 20 ordinances to gain control over similar events. Three of those ordinances regarding alcohol consumption in parking lots, landscaping damage and trailer parking were discussed by the Police Commission on several occasions before being reviewed by the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday afternoon.

Prior to council discussion, business owners and tourism representatives approached the council to voice their concerns.

“I ask you to think very carefully about these ordinances, and please not to overreact because this is a very large weekend for us as a business. It is one of the main reasons we open in early May,” said Ross Wilde, representing Best Motels, of the Cruisin’ events. “The ordinances concern me because it will effect a large population of our guests at a time that we need them … I think if you pass all of these ordinances you might chase away these people that come down for these weekends with the majority being good people.”

According to Wilde, one group of car enthusiasts book over 90 rooms at the Beachmark Motel and have already called to cancel their bookings if the ordinances are passed.

“I am afraid if you anger them and they feel you are attacking them then we would not only lose them for the car weekends but for other times also. I can assure there will be a population of those people that will be so angry they will never come back to this town,” Wilde said. “I would suggest you think carefully about these three things because the affects will be far and wide, and I would ask that you find some alternative ways to address the bad behavior associated with that weekend.”

Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones expressed concern over the impact the ordinances will have on local businesses.

“I think the concern is if you are using these ordinances to dictate what a property owner can do in their parking lot, there is a grave concern over people wanting to continue owning businesses in this town,” Jones said. “Rather than being really reactive to the public criticism … let’s just take a step back and think about it in more time than we have had.”

Jones recommended growing the existing “Trespass Authorization Enforcement Act” that many businesses have already expressed interest in. The program is a partnership with business owners where they enlist the police’s help to act on their behalf in the event that someone is trespassing on their private property while the business is closed and they are away from the property.

“We just have way too many questions on the way these ordinances are written,” Jones said. “I really hope that you don’t just push this through as an emergency ordinance.”

Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel added the council should give the businesses more time to provide input.

“Our greatest concern is the impact these events have on our economy with our businesses and I just want to make sure that it is given the proper time and consideration,” Pursel said.

Michael James of Carousel Group Hotels was afraid the ordinances will send an unwelcoming message.

“These people are great guests and want to come to town. We want to send a welcoming message to these people instead of sending their trailers to West Ocean City or charging them to park is sending the wrong message,” James said. “We are in deep competition with other resorts, and it is important to keep that in mind. None of us want a drunk and rowdy crowd, but there is nothing wrong with a few guys sitting in the parking lot drinking a few beers. Some discretion needs to be used.”

 

Public Safety Concerns Drive Proposed Changes

Mayor Rick Meehan recalled the first Crusin’ event took place over 25 years ago as a mechanism to expand the busy season in Ocean City. The first event had 200 cars registered, which has grown significantly since that time. However, the town’s policies have not grown along with the increase in vehicular events coming to town as well as their growing attendance.

“We have many people referring to Coastal Hwy. as ‘the strip’ … and we have watched the crowds grow along the highways egging the cars on and creating a problem that has put our police department in a difficult position to enforce the laws and keep everybody safe, which is our primary concern,” the mayor said. “Along with that, with the advent of social media, other unsanctioned events are taken place [H2Oi]. When you look at the number of cars that come to town and the problems that have occurred … we realize there is a problem.”

Meehan acknowledged the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) has grown over the years as well as the department has developed agreements with allied agencies who lend a hand in times of need.

“It has got to the point now where we are going to have to take action. The chief has come to us and stated that we need to do some things to make the situation better. Not to discourage the events but to allow them to continue,” the mayor said. “The promoters see in order to preserve their event and continue to be here we need to make some changes, and they are willing to work with us to make those changes. As far as the property owners, you see all of your guests having a good time but when they are encouraging cars to burn out or swerve, all they have to do is swerve the wrong way into the crowd one time and that would be the end of those types of events in Ocean City forever. That is what we are trying to avoid.”

OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro admitted during the times of certain events the department is taxed beyond its limits.

“We are a committed, professional police force but we need assistance as we move forward. Over the last several years, we have seen individuals that are irresponsible, and the level of disrespect to our town is intolerable,” the chief said. “We want to put the proposed ordinances in place to help maintain a certain degree of law enforcement. With passage of these ordinances, I believe we will be able to stem the tide allowing a further degree of control that overwhelmingly our citizens want. The three ordinances for your review I believe will provide us with the necessary and adequate ability to find peace and good order that we are looking for.”

The first proposed ordinance is in regards to public possession of an open container or consumption of alcoholic beverages, particularly in any required parking area of a business license holder.

The ordinance adds required parking lot areas of business license holders to the list of places where an open container or consumption of alcoholic beverages cannot be possessed due to police regularly encountering large crowds consuming or carrying open alcoholic beverages during special events in parking lots of shopping centers, stores, hotels and motels. This frequently results in disorderly, assaultive behavior and generates large amounts of uncontained trash, glass and debris, according to the ordinance language.

The ordinance states, “It shall be a violation for any business license holder to permit, enable or allow the consumption of or possession in an open container of alcoholic beverage on the parking areas, and the commission or omission of the license holder that allows the unlawful activity constitutes the act of maintaining or contributing to a public nuisance, and the license shall be subject to business license revocation. The employment of security personnel with the posting of signage, or proof of providing written or oral warning of the prohibition to the guests prior to the summoning law enforcement, shall create a presumption of compliance with the law by the business license holder … upon application, the Mayor and City Council of Ocean City may permit the public possession and consumption of alcoholic beverage at municipal sponsored events and municipal permitted special events on the public property and municipal parking lots and at private events on business parking lots subject to such restrictions and conditions which the Mayor and City Council may impose and approval by the Board of License Commissioners of Worcester County.”

“These activities are already against the law. The people who are being disorderly can be cited or arrested. People sitting in a parking lot drinking beer aren’t particularly doing anything wrong,” Councilman Matt James said. “Just going up to harass people sitting in a parking lot, watching cars and drinking a beer might be a little much.”

Buzzuro responded a trained officer assesses situations prior to making a determination in if it is problematic.

“Currently there are limitations as to our response during certain situations. The ordinance will give us certain leverage in being able to properly handle situations, unruly behavior and beyond. Private property is somewhat different as to what we can do on public property,” the chief said.

OCPD is reasonable in using discretion, Council Secretary Mary Knight said.

“I believe in our police department,” she said, as she made a motion to forward the proposed ordinance to first reading next Tuesday evening, Sept. 8.

Councilman Dennis Dare seconded the motion, voicing his concern over the perception the events are making of Ocean City.

“These groups are unruly, and we need to take some measures in moving forward. A lot of them are just plain disrespectful. We pride ourselves in being a family-friendly resort … and there are a number of people who get upset over the motorized events in the spring and the fall. I realize they help our business community but they also contribute to tarnishing our reputation, and we need to take control of that,” Dare said.

Being a business owner, Council President Lloyd Martin felt torn in making a decision, and didn’t agree with a business owner being at stake to lose their license.

“People attending the events can be disrespectful but at the same time the Cruisin’ events are family events as well. You will see three generations sitting on a curb as car enthusiasts. They don’t sit inside the bars and restaurants. They want to be on the highway to see the cars,” Martin said. “We do have issues that we need to address but this as a starting point I am not sure I agree with.”

Dare pointed out the ordinance is similar to the town’s noise ordinance which allows for two citations prior to consideration of a business license being revoked. Knight agreed and amended the motion to allow for two strikes prior to being out.

“I certainly understand where the businesses are coming from but since I have been on council I have never had more calls or emails from both residents and visitors on any other subject … then I have had over this,” Councilman Tony DeLuca weighed in. “The chief is asking us for something, and I think these ordinances are very important.”

The council voted 5-2 with Martin and James in opposition to present the ordinance in first reading on Tuesday evening.

 

Public Nuisances Targeted

The next proposed ordinance outlines destructive uses of landscaped areas, public nuisance uses of parking areas, and outlines business license holder efforts in preventing destructive and public nuisance uses of required parking areas. The ordinance requires the areas to be used for intended purposes only, as well as allows the Mayor and City Council to permit alternate use of these areas on private property by advanced request of the property owner.

“During special events we see areas that are being misused by the public on private and public property whether it is mulchy areas with shrubbery or landscaped areas are being changed over to stands for spectators. They are being trampled on, damaged and destroyed along Coastal Highway, Baltimore Avenue and Philadelphia Avenue, and we are looking for a way to control this with enforcement by this ordinance,” Buzzuro said.

Again, James pointed out destruction of property is already against the law.

“If a property owner allows people to sit on their mulch then who cares,” he said.

Buzzuro responded such a case wouldn’t be an issue.

“If a property owner calls us asking for assistance because their landscaping is being damaged, we would have a mechanism in place to provide relief for them,” he said.

When building in Ocean City, a developer is required to provide a certain percentage of landscaping, Councilman Wayne Hartman stated.

“When you see people sitting there with their coolers, it gets trampled and destroyed. The expense for all of that is amazing, so for us to ask people to respect property I don’t think is a big deal,” he said, as he made a motion to send the proposed ordinance to first reading on Tuesday evening, Sept. 8.

The council voted 5-2 to approve with Martin and James opposed.

 

Trailer Action Proposed

The final ordinance proposed is to address a proliferation of vehicle trailers parked on public property, particularly during special motor events. As many trailers are often parked on sidewalks, creating dangerous view obstructions and traffic hazards the ordinance changes the existing oversized vehicle restrictions start date from June 1 to May 1 and extend the end date from Sept. 15 to Oct. 31, except for the parking of trailers in the vicinity of active construction sites used for transporting construction materials and equipment and the parking of boat trailers at the 100th Street municipal parking lot.

An email received from Kathy Micheal of OC BikeFest recognized the event’s MOU with the town allows the event to use the Park & Ride in West Ocean City to house vendor trailers.

“In general, the majority of participant traffic for OC BikeFest and Delmarva Bike Week use their motorcycle as the sole source for transportation. Those attendees who trailer motorcycles are in the minority. For them, we will provide information via on our Website, Facebook and in our Rally Guide to familiarize themselves with the local laws, ordinances, rules and regulations and have recommended looking to their place of lodging for temporary trailer parking or storage or outside the confines of the barrier island,” the email states. “We fully support the Town of Ocean City’s effort to control this matter and recognize that the ordinance is in place for all events as well as general town vehicular traffic.”

Bob Rothermel of TEAM Productions agreed with the incredible proliferation of trailers, in a town that does not allow boat trailer or oversized vehicle parking on city streets, a change has to be made. The promoters have met with town officials in making the same accommodations for trailer parking at the Park & Ride.

“Change is never easy. If we had our way, we would implement the no trailer parking provisions in the Spring of this year rather than the fall, especially given the herculean task of creating these new procedures with less than 50 days,” Rothermel said. “However, we have always been willing to work with the town, the business community, as well as the residential community in making Cruisin’ Ocean City and the Endless Summer Car Show one of the major automotive events east of the Mississippi … bar none. Nevertheless, we hope and believe the event is strong enough to encompass these proposed changes.”

Most of the issues with trailers occur in the congestion of downtown, James stated. Instead of banning trailers all together, James suggested only eliminating downtown and residential neighborhoods.

“The people who attend these events do not want to leave their trailers or their cars. They want to have them near where they are staying. It is not convenient,” he said, adding having trailers park at the Park & Ride will only push business off island to West Ocean City.

The ordinance will provide an opportunity for private parking lots on island to make arrangements for trailer parking, Councilman Doug Cymek said.

“The Park & Ride in West Ocean City is not the cure all. It is just one parcel … there is a lot of things can be done,” he said.

Knight made a motion to send the proposed ordinance to first reading on Tuesday evening, and the council voted 6-1 to approve with James in opposition.

Ordinance Change Mulled For New Possible Fenwick Hotel Project

sands motel

 

FENWICK ISLAND – A local hotelier looks to bring a flagship hotel to Fenwick Island, but concerns over the quiet beach community becoming over commercialized may stand in the way.

Ocean City hotelier/developer Spiro Buas has crossed over the state line into Fenwick Island to take on his most recent project, the Sands Motel. Buas purchased the 60-year-old motel in March and plans to demolish the building to make way for a new hotel.

Buas has met with the Fenwick Island Charter and Ordinance Committee over the past few months to discuss a request that would allow for more rooms in the new hotel.

Currently, Fenwick’s Zoning Code allows for one hotel room per 1,000 square feet, a regulation that went into effect in 1986 following the most recent construction of hotels in Fenwick, the Seaside Inn built in 1985 and the Fenwick Islander built in 1986.

“At that particular time, there was an ordinance change that required one hotel room per 1,000 square feet, and that is our current ordinance. The Sands property in its entirety is 39,000 square feet, so currently a new hotel on this lot would be allowed a maximum of 39 hotel rooms,” Councilman Bill Weistling said. Currently the Sands Motel contains 38 rooms.

Buas has requested to amend the Commercial Zone Regulations to allow one room per 500 square feet, which would allow for 78 rooms on the Sands Motel property. The current code also restricts the maximum height of a building to be 30 feet from the crown of the road that would minimize the new hotel to three stories, like the Seaside Inn and Fenwick Islander.

Weistling explained because the Seaside Inn was built prior to the regulation it has 61 rooms with one room per 640 square feet, and the Fenwick Islander has 62 rooms with one room per 363 square feet. After discussion, the Charter and Ordinance Committee was in consensus to allow one room per 600 square feet but wanted the public and council’s input prior to making a formal recommendation.

“It is not feasible to have a 39-room hotel. It wouldn’t make sense,” Buas said before the council on Friday. “I have the architect working on small rendering to find out what will fit and what wouldn’t with the other limitations like parking … it would be a newer style hotel, something a little bit larger and nicer … right now most of the rooms are very small with tiny bathrooms that I don’t think meet ADA requirements. I would like to see a change to the ordinance.”

Buas furthered, in order to build a marketable franchise in Fenwick Island, more than 39 rooms is going to have to be allowed.

“I know there are feelings about Fenwick being a family oriented and quiet town, and I respect that, but you can probably see in the few months that I have had it [Sands Motel] I think the demeanor over there has already changed,” Buas said. “If this can’t happen, I am willing to take other avenues. I am not sure what they are yet because I am hoping this works well.”

In response to several questions from the public over the concept, Buas stated given the size of the property the brand will most likely be a hotel that does not require a restaurant, only continental breakfast and the lowest room rate with be in the high $200s and above. The project would have the potential to bring in over $100,000 in room tax for the town.

“I went to the Chamber of Commerce and asked what they thought of a new, more modern style hotel, and they said it is desperately needed,” Buas said. “The quality for many visitors is not in Fenwick Island and visitors are taking their stays to surrounding areas.”

While a number of residents agreed the Sands Motel is an eyesore for Fenwick Island, the majority agreed a change in the code would be setting a precedent for the commercial zone along Route 1. Although there are only a few properties available, there are others on the verge of becoming available to be redeveloped, and the concern is the quiet neighborhood of Fenwick Island will turn into a much busier corridor with large franchises like their neighbors to the south in Ocean City.

“If we change the ordinance, it is going to affect the town. There are three lots here right now that can be built on by a motel or hotel. Is that the direction we want to go and encourage that? I’m not sure. Actually I am sure, I hope not,” Councilman Roy Williams said.

Councilwoman Julie Lee agreed, asking the council to look at the bigger picture.

“This is not about one motel … do you want to see Fenwick change from a single-family vacation and residence site into a place with more commercial and hotels. It would certainly increase the number of people on the beach by hundreds. We need to be looking at the potential of commercial redevelopment down Route 1,” Lee said.

The Charter and Ordinance Committee will return to the town council with further input at the next meeting on Sept. 25.

 

Despite Business Fears, Ocean City Moving Ahead With Law Changes Aimed At Taming Auto Events

new pic for ordinance story

OCEAN CITY – The local business community voiced concerns Tuesday as the majority of the City Council voted to push through laws aimed at getting a grip on motor vehicle events.

For the last couple of years, city officials have been promising action to ease residents’ concerns when it comes to vehicular events in Ocean City and the Police Commission last month issued a favorable recommendation on several proposed changes to city laws.

The most recent event of concern was Cruisin’ in May with 3,400 classic cars officially registered for the event and tens of thousands of more “wannabes,” as the event promoter refers to them. While the officially registered participants appeared to be well behaved for the most part and attended the event’s official activities at the Inlet and Roland E. Powell Convention Center, the latter group raced up and down Coastal Highway and other streets, dumped trash in parking lots and left a considerable amount of rubber on the roads.

The Police Commission was tasked with finding other ways to better the events as far as enforcement goes. Ocean City officials visited Myrtle Beach where the resort enacted over 20 ordinances to gain control over similar events. Three of those ordinances regarding alcohol consumption in parking lots, landscaping damage and trailer parking were discussed by the Police Commission on several occasions before being reviewed by the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday afternoon.

Prior to council discussion, business owners and tourism representatives approached the council to voice their concerns.

“I ask you to think very carefully about these ordinances, and please not to overreact because this is a very large weekend for us as a business. It is one of the main reasons we open in early May,” said Ross Wilde, representing Best Motels, of the Cruisin’ events. “The ordinances concern me because it will effect a large population of our guests at a time that we need them … I think if you pass all of these ordinances you might chase away these people that come down for these weekends with the majority being good people.”

According to Wilde, one group of car enthusiasts book over 90 rooms at the Beachmark Motel and have already called to cancel their bookings if the ordinances are passed.

“I am afraid if you anger them and they feel you are attacking them then we would not only lose them for the car weekends but for other times also. I can assure there will be a population of those people that will be so angry they will never come back to this town,” Wilde said. “I would suggest you think carefully about these three things because the affects will be far and wide, and I would ask that you find some alternative ways to address the bad behavior associated with that weekend.”

Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones expressed concern over the impact the ordinances will have on local businesses.

“I think the concern is if you are using these ordinances to dictate what a property owner can do in their parking lot, there is a grave concern over people wanting to continue owning businesses in this town,” Jones said. “Rather than being really reactive to the public criticism … let’s just take a step back and think about it in more time than we have had.”

Jones recommended growing the existing “Trespass Authorization Enforcement Act” that many businesses have already expressed interest in. The program is a partnership with business owners where they enlist the police’s help to act on their behalf in the event that someone is trespassing on their private property while the business is closed and they are away from the property.

“We just have way too many questions on the way these ordinances are written,” Jones said. “I really hope that you don’t just push this through as an emergency ordinance.”

Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel added the council should give the businesses more time to provide input.

“Our greatest concern is the impact these events have on our economy with our businesses and I just want to make sure that it is given the proper time and consideration,” Pursel said.

Michael James of Carousel Group Hotels was afraid the ordinances will send an unwelcoming message.

“These people are great guests and want to come to town. We want to send a welcoming message to these people instead of sending their trailers to West Ocean City or charging them to park is sending the wrong message,” James said. “We are in deep competition with other resorts, and it is important to keep that in mind. None of us want a drunk and rowdy crowd, but there is nothing wrong with a few guys sitting in the parking lot drinking a few beers. Some discretion needs to be used.”

Public Safety Concerns Drive Proposed Changes

Mayor Rick Meehan recalled the first Crusin’ event took place over 25 years ago as a mechanism to expand the busy season in Ocean City. The first event had 200 cars registered, which has grown significantly since that time. However, the town’s policies have not grown along with the increase in vehicular events coming to town as well as their growing attendance.

“We have many people referring to Coastal Hwy. as ‘the strip’ … and we have watched the crowds grow along the highways egging the cars on and creating a problem that has put our police department in a difficult position to enforce the laws and keep everybody safe, which is our primary concern,” the mayor said. “Along with that, with the advent of social media, other unsanctioned events are taken place [H2Oi]. When you look at the number of cars that come to town and the problems that have occurred … we realize there is a problem.”

Meehan acknowledged the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) has grown over the years as well as the department has developed agreements with allied agencies who lend a hand in times of need.

“It has got to the point now where we are going to have to take action. The chief has come to us and stated that we need to do some things to make the situation better. Not to discourage the events but to allow them to continue,” the mayor said. “The promoters see in order to preserve their event and continue to be here we need to make some changes, and they are willing to work with us to make those changes. As far as the property owners, you see all of your guests having a good time but when they are encouraging cars to burn out or swerve, all they have to do is swerve the wrong way into the crowd one time and that would be the end of those types of events in Ocean City forever. That is what we are trying to avoid.”

OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro admitted during the times of certain events the department is taxed beyond its limits.

“We are a committed, professional police force but we need assistance as we move forward. Over the last several years, we have seen individuals that are irresponsible, and the level of disrespect to our town is intolerable,” the chief said. “We want to put the proposed ordinances in place to help maintain a certain degree of law enforcement. With passage of these ordinances, I believe we will be able to stem the tide allowing a further degree of control that overwhelmingly our citizens want. The three ordinances for your review I believe will provide us with the necessary and adequate ability to find peace and good order that we are looking for.”

The first proposed ordinance is in regards to public possession of an open container or consumption of alcoholic beverages, particularly in any required parking area of a business license holder.

The ordinance adds required parking lot areas of business license holders to the list of places where an open container or consumption of alcoholic beverages cannot be possessed due to police regularly encountering large crowds consuming or carrying open alcoholic beverages during special events in parking lots of shopping centers, stores, hotels and motels. This frequently results in disorderly, assaultive behavior and generates large amounts of uncontained trash, glass and debris, according to the ordinance language.

The ordinance states, “It shall be a violation for any business license holder to permit, enable or allow the consumption of or possession in an open container of alcoholic beverage on the parking areas, and the commission or omission of the license holder that allows the unlawful activity constitutes the act of maintaining or contributing to a public nuisance, and the license shall be subject to business license revocation. The employment of security personnel with the posting of signage, or proof of providing written or oral warning of the prohibition to the guests prior to the summoning law enforcement, shall create a presumption of compliance with the law by the business license holder … upon application, the Mayor and City Council of Ocean City may permit the public possession and consumption of alcoholic beverage at municipal sponsored events and municipal permitted special events on the public property and municipal parking lots and at private events on business parking lots subject to such restrictions and conditions which the Mayor and City Council may impose and approval by the Board of License Commissioners of Worcester County.”

“These activities are already against the law. The people who are being disorderly can be cited or arrested. People sitting in a parking lot drinking beer aren’t particularly doing anything wrong,” Councilman Matt James said. “Just going up to harass people sitting in a parking lot, watching cars and drinking a beer might be a little much.”

Buzzuro responded a trained officer assesses situations prior to making a determination in if it is problematic.

“Currently there are limitations as to our response during certain situations. The ordinance will give us certain leverage in being able to properly handle situations, unruly behavior and beyond. Private property is somewhat different as to what we can do on public property,” the chief said.

OCPD is reasonable in using discretion, Council Secretary Mary Knight said.

“I believe in our police department,” she said, as she made a motion to forward the proposed ordinance to first reading next Tuesday evening, Sept. 8.

Councilman Dennis Dare seconded the motion, voicing his concern over the perception the events are making of Ocean City.

“These groups are unruly, and we need to take some measures in moving forward. A lot of them are just plain disrespectful. We pride ourselves in being a family-friendly resort … and there are a number of people who get upset over the motorized events in the spring and the fall. I realize they help our business community but they also contribute to tarnishing our reputation, and we need to take control of that,” Dare said.

Being a business owner, Council President Lloyd Martin felt torn in making a decision, and didn’t agree with a business owner being at stake to lose their license.

“People attending the events can be disrespectful but at the same time the Cruisin’ events are family events as well. You will see three generations sitting on a curb as car enthusiasts. They don’t sit inside the bars and restaurants. They want to be on the highway to see the cars,” Martin said. “We do have issues that we need to address but this as a starting point I am not sure I agree with.”

Dare pointed out the ordinance is similar to the town’s noise ordinance which allows for two citations prior to consideration of a business license being revoked. Knight agreed and amended the motion to allow for two strikes prior to being out.

“I certainly understand where the businesses are coming from but since I have been on council I have never had more calls or emails from both residents and visitors on any other subject … then I have had over this,” Councilman Tony DeLuca weighed in. “The chief is asking us for something, and I think these ordinances are very important.”

The council voted 5-2 with Martin and James in opposition to present the ordinance in first reading on Tuesday evening.

Public Nuisances Targeted

The next proposed ordinance outlines destructive uses of landscaped areas, public nuisance uses of parking areas, and outlines business license holder efforts in preventing destructive and public nuisance uses of required parking areas. The ordinance requires the areas to be used for intended purposes only, as well as allows the Mayor and City Council to permit alternate use of these areas on private property by advanced request of the property owner.

“During special events we see areas that are being misused by the public on private and public property whether it is mulchy areas with shrubbery or landscaped areas are being changed over to stands for spectators. They are being trampled on, damaged and destroyed along Coastal Highway, Baltimore Avenue and Philadelphia Avenue, and we are looking for a way to control this with enforcement by this ordinance,” Buzzuro said.

Again, James pointed out destruction of property is already against the law.

“If a property owner allows people to sit on their mulch then who cares,” he said.

Buzzuro responded such a case wouldn’t be an issue.

“If a property owner calls us asking for assistance because their landscaping is being damaged, we would have a mechanism in place to provide relief for them,” he said.

When building in Ocean City, a developer is required to provide a certain percentage of landscaping, Councilman Wayne Hartman stated.

“When you see people sitting there with their coolers, it gets trampled and destroyed. The expense for all of that is amazing, so for us to ask people to respect property I don’t think is a big deal,” he said, as he made a motion to send the proposed ordinance to first reading on Tuesday evening, Sept. 8.

The council voted 5-2 to approve with Martin and James opposed.

Trailer Changes Proposed

The final ordinance proposed is to address a proliferation of vehicle trailers parked on public property, particularly during special motor events. As many trailers are often parked on sidewalks, creating dangerous view obstructions and traffic hazards the ordinance changes the existing oversized vehicle restrictions start date from June 1 to May 1 and extend the end date from Sept. 15 to Oct. 31, except for the parking of trailers in the vicinity of active construction sites used for transporting construction materials and equipment and the parking of boat trailers at the 100th Street municipal parking lot.

An email received from Kathy Micheal of OC BikeFest recognized the event’s MOU with the town allows the event to use the Park & Ride in West Ocean City to house vendor trailers.

“In general, the majority of participant traffic for OC BikeFest and Delmarva Bike Week use their motorcycle as the sole source for transportation. Those attendees who trailer motorcycles are in the minority. For them, we will provide information via on our Website, Facebook and in our Rally Guide to familiarize themselves with the local laws, ordinances, rules and regulations and have recommended looking to their place of lodging for temporary trailer parking or storage or outside the confines of the barrier island,” the email states. “We fully support the Town of Ocean City’s effort to control this matter and recognize that the ordinance is in place for all events as well as general town vehicular traffic.”

Bob Rothermel of TEAM Productions agreed with the incredible proliferation of trailers, in a town that does not allow boat trailer or oversized vehicle parking on city streets, a change has to be made. The promoters have met with town officials in making the same accommodations for trailer parking at the Park & Ride.

“Change is never easy. If we had our way, we would implement the no trailer parking provisions in the Spring of this year rather than the fall, especially given the herculean task of creating these new procedures with less than 50 days,” Rothermel said. “However, we have always been willing to work with the town, the business community, as well as the residential community in making Cruisin’ Ocean City and the Endless Summer Car Show one of the major automotive events east of the Mississippi … bar none. Nevertheless, we hope and believe the event is strong enough to encompass these proposed changes.”

Most of the issues with trailers occur in the congestion of downtown, James stated. Instead of banning trailers all together, James suggested only eliminating downtown and residential neighborhoods.

“The people who attend these events do not want to leave their trailers or their cars. They want to have them near where they are staying. It is not convenient,” he said, adding having trailers park at the Park & Ride will only push business off island to West Ocean City.

The ordinance will provide an opportunity for private parking lots on island to make arrangements for trailer parking, Councilman Doug Cymek said.

“The Park & Ride in West Ocean City is not the cure all. It is just one parcel … there is a lot of things can be done,” he said.

Knight made a motion to send the proposed ordinance to first reading on Tuesday evening, and the council voted 6-1 to approve with James in opposition.

 

Concerns Over Possible Athletic Complex Expansion Aired

SALISBURY – The ball is in Wicomico County’s field, as Salisbury awaits stipulations to be met prior to further consideration of a land donation that would permit the expansion of Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex at Naylor Mill Park.

Last October the Wicomico County Council considered the acceptance of a donation of property from the City of Salisbury, consisting of 34.94 acres located on the north side of Naylor Mill Rd., adjacent to the athletic complex for the purpose of expanding the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex (HPAC).

At that time, former Wicomico Recreation, Parks and Tourism Director Gary Mackes presented Wicomico’s tourism book consisted of 35 amateur sports events that have generated an overall $43.1 million in economic activity. This is composed of 30,000 hotel room nights and close to 200,000 visitors. Compared to the previous year, Wicomico’s tourism initiative had grown by 10 percent.

Wicomico County utilizes HPAC as the hub for regional events held in the county. Some events are so large that they exceed the county’s field and lodging capacity. In fact, the summer World Series event used 21 fields and lodging demand had grown 50 percent in Ocean City.

The county is confident an expanded complex will bring at least 10 additional events and an increase in direct economic activity from $26.2 million to $32.2 million with an annual growth of 25 percent. By 2020, the county will benefit from additional growth of 15 percent, or $5 million, to an accumulative total of $11 million, or 40 percent when compared to the present.

Currently, the HPAC has four softball fields with three lighted, one lighted baseball field, four lighted soccer fields, two full-service concession stands with restroom facilities, a shaded playground area, plenty of spectator seating and free parking for 720 vehicles.

The expansion would add four baseball/softball fields with two being lighted and four more soccer fields as well as increase parking capacity. About $3.7 million has been dedicated to the expansion between county and state funding.

With the many concerns surrounding the project that has been on the table for the past year, Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton called for a public hearing to be held on July 29 to address concerns over the future of the Paleochannel aquifer, and the approximately 35 acres of forested land adjacent to the HPAC.

However, on July 13, the city released a press release stating, “Wicomico County has withdrawn its request that the city donate 35 acres of forested land adjacent to the HPAC on Naylor Mill Road. In light of this development, the public hearing…has been cancelled. The county has indicated that they are now considering other prospective parcels of land.”

Ireon said, “The importance of the Paleochannel, and the water it provides both city and county residents is an incredibly compelling reason to keep this land in its present form. We don’t have to worry though, for now Wicomico County is searching for an alternative place to expand recreational areas. That’s a good thing. … I applaud County Executive Culver on this decision to seek land elsewhere.”

In response, Wicomico County claimed a miscommunication in withdrawing its request for the donation of land.

“The mayor’s assertion that Wicomico County has withdrawn its request for the land donation associated with the Henry S. Parker complex expansion is not true. The county has not withdrawn its request,” the county’s press release stated.

With the project seemingly still up for discussion, citizens waited for their time to voice their concerns at the conclusion of Monday’s City Council meeting.

“There is a growing concern in the community that the trails at Naylor Mill are going to be turned into playing fields when there are a lot of other resources for that in town …  Salisbury doesn’t have a lot of trails for mountain biking, exploring with young children, running and just getting back in touch with nature,” Melissa Wilson said. “This is also where the water comes from for the city, which is a concern … the potential pollution that will contaminate city water.”

Trent Swanson listed many proven economic benefits that trails have on a community, such as increasing the value of nearby properties, increasing the spending at local businesses, and making a community more attractive to live.

“When considering where to live, home buyers consider walking and biking one of the most important features of a new community,” Swanson said. “Having lived in Salisbury, Delmar and now Fruitland, the lack of sidewalks is dangerous not only for myself but for my children, as more and more people are driving distracted by text messaging and talking on the phone. I need a place where I can feel safe to take my kids, family and friends where we can be out and not feel as concerned over being hit by a car.”

Gabriel Matyiko asked the City Council to see outside of the dollar signs.

“A lot of people come here because it is one of the least developed, wild and natural places surrounded by tons of metropolitan areas, and there is a lot of value in that. There is so much open land out there on the Eastern Shore but we don’t have places like Naylor Mill,” Matyiko said. “It’s an asset that unless you have been out there to enjoy it, it is hard to realize. It is a fantastic place. It is beautiful. When you’re out there it looks like you could be in a national park but you’re not, you’re in Salisbury.”

Matyiko pointed out that while USSSA Eastern World Series, which is one of the largest sports tournaments to take place in Wicomico County, has returned the contract does not go beyond a year.

“They could be here for one year, or two years but the next year they may not come, so that money that you’re banking on could be gone,” he said. “For the people that live here to enjoy that [Naylor Mill Park] now that is a sustainable, long-term economic benefit.”

Sarah Halcott has started the “Save the Naylor Mill Forest” petition online at www.change.org. As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition advocating for “other locations” had received 359 signatures.

Council President Jake Day agreed recreation and ecotourism plays an important role in the city’s revitalization efforts, as well as in the importance of water quality, which is why the city has put in place several stipulations for the county to accomplish before consideration of the projects move any further.

“It is my belief if anything moves forward it would be a situation where the trails will be protected and the Paleochannel will be protected. I do not think we would be comfortable moving if those two stipulations are not done,” said Day.

Day recognized the economic impact over $20 million in revenue from the USSSA tournaments has on the city.

“With that being said, $20 million is actually a very small portion of the economic impact of tourism on this community. It is a big number but don’t let anybody tell you that is all of it. It is just a part of it,” he said. “We have also been told that these sports tournaments are a passing fad. I can’t speak to that but we recognize that question of whether this is a lasting economic contributor to our community.”

Day furthered that while the state has committed $1 million towards the project, he believes the past proves there is no rush.

“We have found in this community, such as with the skate park, that if the state is providing funding, and if the due diligence has not been done or the political will is not there to make a project happen that money might stay,” he said. “It stayed for us when due diligence was done and the political will did exist later down the road. I don’t think we are in as much of a rush as our friends at the county claim we are. Two and half years after the state committed money to the skate park, we still had it.”

Day concluded conversations with the county will be held publically moving forward.

Bus Driver Recruitment Efforts Called Successful

OCEAN CITY – This month the Transportation Commission reviewed several ongoing efforts in increasing the bus and tram services that have proven to be successful.

According to Public Works Director Hal Adkins, in July there were 32,000 more passengers on the buses compared to last year, and there were 424 more deployments, which is an increase of 23.3 percent. In August, the increase in deployments increased 18.8 percent with a 5.5 percent increase in ridership.

“Our goal was 20 percent,” Commission Chair Mayor Rick Meehan reported to the City Council last week regarding deployments. “We are trending in the right direction.”

According to Budget Manager Jennie Knapp, as of July 26, the bus system has brought in about $1.67 million in revenue, which is about a 1.04-percent increase from last year.

In the beginning of the year, the Transportation Commission focused on increasing the number of bus drivers by this summer season as the town has struggled with filling driver seats in the past several years.

The commission went as far as lowering the age requirement to drive city buses and opening the opportunity to foreign students. In the months leading up to summer, the Town of Ocean City attended several job fairs collecting many applications.

The commission’s goal was to have 155 seasonal drivers this summer. In 2012, there were 138 bus drivers. In 2013, there were 137 bus drivers, and in 2014, there were 120 bus drivers.

According to Operations Manager Steve Bartlett, in June there were 150 seasonal bus drivers on payroll, which decreased to 142 in August. However, this time last year there were 108 seasonal drivers on payroll.

“Our recruitment efforts worked and it is making for a better transportation system,” Meehan said. “We will continue to do that through the winter season for next year.

With the White Marlin Open coming to a close earlier this month, the commission also reviewed the ridership numbers of the White Marlin Open shuttle that travels from the Roland E. Powell Convention Center to the weigh ins at Harbour Island on 14th St. This year ridership was down 19 percent. In the future, the commission plans on having a discussion with Jim Motsko, president of the White Marlin Open, and Special Events Director Frank Miller on potentially decreasing shuttle deployments.

Adkins furthered the sales of the Boardwalk tram advertising panels for the summer netted the town $67,000. The cost to outfit those panels came to approximately $70,000, leaving a small gap to cover as far as initial expenses. The advertising net revenue in Fiscal Year 2016 is estimated at $78,000.

Discussions over expanding the Boardwalk tram advertising effort began in March at which time eight of the town’s Boardwalk tram conductor cars were equipped with tram rooftop backlit displays for both local and national advertisements of Dippin Dots, Tanger Outlets, Quitline, Department of Health and Mental Health and Casino at Ocean Downs.

Adkins asked if the commission was interested in proceeding in outfitting six additional panels to complete the tram fleet because the town’s advertising firm for transportation, Direct Media, would like to start selling those panels for next season in September.

Currently 10 of the town’s 16 Boardwalk tram passenger cars have a backlit display installed. The cost to outfit a car is about $7,200 each. The commission agreed to move forward in fabricating the remaining panels.

Ocean City Criminal Incidents Down 5% Through July

Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – The month of July continued the trend of an overall crime decrease in Ocean City, but the majority of calls for service increased across the board.

At this month’s Police Commission meeting, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro reported the month of July’s crime statistics.

According to the report, July’s total calls for service, including traffic stops, business checks and assistance to citizens, totaled 16,273, which is a 5.6-percent increase from July 2014 when there were 15,405 calls for service.
Out of that total, 12,184 were officer initiated, which is a 7.5-percent increase from July 2014, and 4,089 were citizen initiated, which is.5-percent increase from July 2014.

The total number of calls for service, excluding traffic stops, business checks and assisting citizens, totaled 10,476, which is a 9.2-percent increase from July 2014 when there were 9,590 calls for service. Out of the total, 6,588 were officer initiated, which is a 15.8-percent increase from July 2014, and 3,888 were citizen initiated, which is a .3-percent decrease from July 2014.
Out of the top 25 calls for service in July, the majority of the categories decreased starting with traffic stops decreasing to 3,046 calls for service in July of this year from 3,910 in July of last year; city ordinance violations decreased to 1,224 this year from 1,338 last year; disorderly conducts decreased to 741 this year from 769 last year; suspicious person or activity decreased to 326 this year from 490 last year; assist to OC EMS decreased to 322 this year from 367 last year; theft already occurred decreased to 219 this year from 243 last year; animal complaints decreased to 183 this year from to 364 last year; assist to motorists decreased to 153 this year from 209 last year; CDS violations decreased to 145 this year from 190 last year; noise complaint violations decreased to 117 this year from 134 last year; tow impound/violations decreased to 117 this year from 161 last year; civil dispute decreased to 100 this year from 125 last year; assist to the Fire Company decreased to 87 this year from 99 last year; assaults already occurred decreased to 84 this year from 101 last year; malicious destruction of property decreased to 73 this year from 85 last year; and public safety concerns decreased to 69 this year from 75 last year.

The categories that increased in the month of July start with assist to citizens increased to 984 calls for service this year from 629 last year; parking complaints increased to 835 this year from 245 last year; 911 hang up calls increased to 785 this year from 724 last year; alcohol violations increased to 411 this year from 285 last year; check on welfare increased to 345 this year from 323 last year; collisions increased to 343 this year from 333 last year; trespassing increased to 162 this year from 95 last year; domestic assault/dispute increased to 137 this year from 120 last year; and forgery of any kind increased to 116 this year from 106 last year.

There were 512 arrests made in July and 51 criminal citations issued. There were 63 drug arrests made and 128 drug citations issued. There were 76 DUI arrests made and 30 weapon arrests, according to OCPD data.

At the end of July, a weekly breakdown reflects a 4.9-percent decrease in total crime so far this year compared to this time last year.
Under Part 1 Crimes there have been no homicides as of the end of July in 2014 and 2015; 15 forcible rapes as of the end of July this year compared to 24 as of the end of July last year; 10 robberies as of the end of July this year compared to 13 as of the end of July last year; 48 aggravated assaults as of the end of July this year compared to 37 as of the end of July last year; 117 burglaries as of the end of July this year compared to 200 as of the end of July last year; 585 larcenies as of the end of July this year compared to 590 as of the end of July last year; nine auto thefts as of the end of July this year and 16 as of the end of July last year; and one case of arson as of the end of July this year compared to none as of the end of July last year.

There were 465 common assaults by the end of July 2015 compared to 446 by the end of July 2014 and 44 minor sex offenses by the end of July 2015 compared to 34 by the end of July 2014, resulting in an overall total of 1,294 crimes at the end of July 2015 compared to 1,360 at the end of July 2014.

There were 16 incidents in July when a Controlled Electronic Weapon (CEW), also known as a Taser. However, out of those incidents only six times was a CEW deployed.

On Friday, July 3, an officer observed an intoxicated subject being removed from a bar for disorderly behavior. When the suspect was told to leave the property due to a trespass warning being issued, the suspect became belligerent and began to approach the officer in a hostile manner. The officer displayed his CEW, which had no impact on the suspect’s behavior. The officer had reason to believe that the suspect was about to assault him, so the officer deployed his CEW on the suspect, which gained full compliance, and there were no injuries to anyone involved.

On Sunday, July 5, an officer attempted to address an open container violation when the suspect attempted to flee. The officer grabbed the suspect’s arm, which is when the suspect turned around in an aggressive manner. The officer targeted the suspect with his CEW, but gained no compliance. The officer deployed his CEW into the suspect, which gained temporary compliance until the CEW cycle timed out. The suspect attempted to flee again, but the officer activated a second CEW cycle, which gained full compliance from the suspect, and there were no injuries to anyone involved.

On Saturday, July 18, an officer observed a subject smoking a marijuana cigarette. When the suspect saw the officer approaching him, the suspect immediately shoved the marijuana cigarette in his mouth in an attempt to swallow it. The officer with the assistance of another officer immediately began to struggle with the suspect, in order to prevent the suspect from swallowing the marijuana. The officer displayed his CEW, but the suspect continued to resist against both officers. The officer utilized a drive stun from his CEW on the suspect, but gained no compliance. A second drive stun was utilized, but the suspect continued to resist arrest. The officer issued a third drive stun, which ultimately gained compliance from the suspect.

On Saturday, July 18, an officer was on routine patrol and issued a suspect two citations for open container of alcohol and possession of marijuana. When the suspect was walking down the street, he began to shout profanities. When the officer went to place the suspect under arrest the suspect began to resist arrest. The officer targeted the suspect with her CEW, but the suspect continued to resist. The officer then deployed her CEW into the suspect’s back, which gained full compliance.

On Saturday, July 25, officers were on a routine patrol at a bar closed when they observed an intoxicated male subject fighting with bar security. Officers immediately intervened and escorted the suspect off the property. The suspect began to assault the officers, which resulted in the officers falling to the ground with the suspect during the struggle. During the struggle the suspect bit an officer on the thigh. The other officer then deployed a drive stun with his CEW to the suspect, but did not gain the suspect’s compliance. The officer then stepped back and deployed the CEW probes into the suspect’s back, which gained full compliance.

On Sunday, July 26, an officer observed another officer struggling with an assault suspect near the roadway. The officer rushed over to assist and ordered the suspect to surrender his hands to the primary officer, so he can be handcuffed but the suspect continued to actively resist arrest. The assisting officer then deployed his CEW, which gained full compliance from the suspect.

 

Concerns Lead Council To Freeze Motorized Rental Licenses

Two examples of hoverboards are pictured from the company Monorover. Photo courtesy of www.monorover.com

OCEAN CITY – With an increase of motorized rentals on the Boardwalk, city officials have decided to place a freeze on issuing such rental licenses for the time being until town regulations are examined.

The topic of hoverboard rentals on the Boardwalk was brought before the Mayor and City Council on Monday evening following the Police Commission’s discussion last week.

“It was brought to the Police Commission’s attention of hoverboards being rented on the Boardwalk. There is a lot of concern over the riders of this new device using them in a reckless manner and possibly imposing a safety issue from a pedestrian’s standpoint. We are going to discuss this further and come back and make some recommendations,” Commission Chair Councilman Doug Cymek said.

What is being referred to as a hoverboard is produced by multiple manufacturers. One of those manufacturers is Monorover, which describes the device as “a Segway without the bulk … features gyroscopic technology, the same as found in Segway. Two sensors (one under each foot pad) detect the micro-movements in your feet and ankles, and relay that information to the motors. Just point your toes down to go forward, and put your weight into your heels to go backwards.”

According to Cymek, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Lt. Mark Pacini spoke with the business renting the hoverboards. The renters are being told the hoverboards can operate on the Boardwalk with no time restrictions at a rate of $35 per hour.

The State of Maryland defines hoverboards the same as a Segway in being an Electronic Personal Assistive Mobility Device (EPAMD), which is having two non-tandem wheels, self-balancing, powered by an electric propulsion system, has a maximum speed capability of 15 mph, and is designed to transport one person.

The Town of Ocean City’s law regulates EPAMDs in the same category as bicycles and pushcarts, which can allowed on the Boardwalk from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m., and from the day after Labor Day to the start of Memorial Day weekend at any time except for during the times of Springfest and Sunfest.

The code furthers, “it shall be unlawful for any nongovernmental motor vehicle, motor-assisted vehicle, bicycle, pushcart, or EPAMDs to be operated on the Boardwalk at any time without permission of the Mayor and City Council or its designated agent except during the time set forth in the code.”

The Police Commission was in consensus the town needs to ensure that hoverboard users and rental businesses come into compliance with existing regulations. The commission said last week it would continue to monitor the use of these devices to determine if further measures are warranted to ensure public safety.

“We have concerns,” Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said this week before the Mayor and City Council, pointing out the rentals have now expanded to a motorized unicycle.

“With the amount of bicycles on the Boardwalk in all shapes and sizes, and it has gone from bikes to Segway’s to hoverboards to now unicycles, the list goes on and on,” the chief said. “By nature the hoverboard just doesn’t go back and forth or sideways so to speak, so that poses some problems just with the amount of traffic that is on the Boardwalk around this time of year. With that being said, bicycles are able to be ridden from 2 a.m. to 11 a.m., so if there was a narrow window similar to bikes for hoverboards that would be more permissible but we need to be cautious in having them out there at any given time.”

According to Mayor Rick Meehan, since the Police Commission’s discussion last week, it has been discovered the businesses on the Boardwalk renting out the hoverboards are operating without the appropriate license, and they have been asked to cease renting the devices.

“With that in mind … and now there is a proliferation of unicycles … I would like the council to consider putting a moratorium on rental licenses for the hoverboards, and I would also like the Police Commission to look at all motorized vehicles/apparatuses this fall and come back with a recommendation to the council,” Council Secretary Mary Knight said.

Knight made a motion to place a moratorium on issuing rental licenses for all motorized vehicles on the Boardwalk, and the council voted unanimously to approve.

Street Performers Call New System ‘Badly Broken’; City Making Some Immediate Adjustments

OCEAN CITY – As the summer winds down, a list of what is not working for performers on the Boardwalk was voiced before the Mayor and City Council with officials assuring their concerns will be reviewed for possible change.

An ordinance on second reading to update language within the City Code regarding street performers came before the council on Monday evening.

On first reading, City Solicitor Guy Ayres explained the amendment is simply a “housekeeping measure” in updating the titles of city staff who have the power to issue citations, such as removing “cadets” and replacing it with “qualified police officers and employees authorized by the chief of police.”

At that time Mayor Rick Meehan took the opportunity to share what he had witnessed in observing the street performers the night before on the Boardwalk.

“It was amazing. They were all crowded with big crowds around them and they were all very successfully entertaining the public,” the mayor said.

A group of street performers, who were seen in front of City Hall protesting a few weeks ago, took exception to the mayor’s comments and made their presence known in the council chambers on Monday evening as the ordinance was scheduled for second reading, which was approved with an unanimous vote.

Performers came forward one-by-one voicing their issues with the regulations put in place this summer.

In mid-June, the council passed an ordinance implementing 32 designated spaces on the street ends of the Boardwalk from the Inlet to 9th Street. Performers are to sign-up with City Clerk Diana Chavis one week in advance on a Monday morning to be designated a space Monday through Friday, and on a Friday morning to be designated a space Friday through Sunday.

In most cases, there are two designated spaces per street end from the Inlet to 9th Street ranging from 10 feet by 10 feet, 5 feet by 10 feet and 5 feet by 5 feet. From 10th to 27th streets, performers are free to set up on any street end without signing up.

Other regulations governing the entire Boardwalk include no performer or vendor can place or allow any item exceeding five feet above ground, or affix props or equipment to the Boardwalk; leave items unattended for a period of 15 consecutive minutes; occupy more than one designated space at any given time or solicit persons to obtain or occupy an additional space on his or her behalf; purchase, sell, barter or exchange any designated space; attempt to reserve a designated space in any fashion other than the selection system; or touch other persons as in hair-braiding, nail painting or apply substances to other persons, including, but not limited to, paints, dyes and inks.

Boardwalk performer Ahlee Dawson voiced her opinion against not being able to share designated spaces that are not being used.

“These restrictions designate one spot to one performer for an entire week. I want to know how you can justify that,” Dawson asked. “These spots are left open just as much if not more than they are being used … if there is no one using a spot, then it is not a big deal if another performer comes in and uses it.”

Dawson, whose performance is strenuous atop an Indo Board, performs for a few hours at a time. She suggested a “priority sign-up” that would give the performer who signed up for a designated space jurisdiction over that location but if the space is not in use there would be protocol for another performer to fill in.

“For me to sign up at City Hall is unfair to the rest of the performers out here that want to use that spot during the day. It is a problem for me morally because I don’t want to take that spot away from them and I can’t share it with them, even though they are doing it anyway. Just so you know…,” she said.

Musician Wayne Jordan asserted the council’s intention to make street performers miserable is successful.

According to Jordan, performers are camping outside of City Hall the night prior to sign-up days to get a space.

“It is totally out of control … there are people paying others to hold place in line, there are people putting together different systems to hold a space or find a way to jockey their way in … they are spending most of their time trying to get a space, then they are actually performing. It is has put a ridiculous burden on these people,” he said.

Jordan pointed out some of the designated spaces, such as on Talbot Street, have been placed behind posts obstructing the view of the performers.

“I am hoping that some of you realize this system is very badly broken and needs to be attended to,” he said.

Magician/Comedian Joe Smith added the regulation of not being allowed to leave belongings unattended longer than 15 minutes is unsustainable, especially when it comes to standing in line to use the bathroom.

“In my mind, if I am coming out to express myself freely, then why do I have to register? That whole thing belays freedom of expression in my mind,” he said.

Face painter Jessica Brown, whose act has been eliminated all together by the regulations due to the abundance of henna tattoos on the Boardwalk, argued while henna ink is a health hazard she uses top-of-the-line, hypo-allergenic paints.

“Whoever told the media that we are all okay with this was a punch to the gut, and such a betrayal because obviously we are all standing in solidarity to tell you we are not okay with our rights being taken away,” she said. “This was a plan for you to eliminate performers … I have never had a problem and now I haven’t been able to do anything this year. I have had to get three jobs to compensate, and I am broken because I am not doing what I love anymore.”

Musician Alex Young disagreed with being confined to small boxes in most locations.

“The only thing missing is jail bars. While you can fit a performer, there is no room to express yourself,” he said. “I understand you are trying to create some order, and I realize two years ago it was a circus on the Boardwalk but this is not the right way to go about it … the mayor mentioned that we are thriving. Well we are not going to stand out there and throw a temper tantrum, we are going to try to perform but how are we thriving when we have to camp out fighting over spots in front of City Hall.”

According to painter/caricature artist Michael Moeller, he was threatened with a citation for sitting under an umbrella over five feet tall to shield himself from the sun.

“So now I have less rights than every beach goer who can bring an umbrella out to shield themselves from the sun, and I am sleeping in front of City Hall because I was accosted by police that I wasn’t allowed to sleep in my car where I wanted to be in air conditioning because it was a hot night,” he said. “We are a minority and as you can see today we are a very vocal and passionate one, and I would like to thank you for making me feel like a minority for the first time in my life. Thank you for educating me. I have never felt such pain and suffering laid on me by my government.”

According to Meehan, Chavis is taking notes of the performers’ concerns that will be reviewed by the council following the summer season. However, changes have been made in the interim to help relieve some of the problems, such as Moeller has been given permission to use an umbrella, patrol officers are being asked to use discretion with the 15-minute rule and designated spaces have been allowed to be shared in certain circumstances.

Going down the list, Meehan acknowledged some of the regulations have caused unintended circumstances and it would make sense to change a few, such as the height restriction, the 15-minute time limit in leaving belongings unattended, size and placement of some locations and even the use of face paint.

“It was commented that we did this to make your lives miserable. Well that is ridiculous. We spent hours upon hours working with a committee, attorneys and listening to all the street performers in trying to put an ordinance together that worked,” the mayor said. “Nothing was meant to cause problems for the street performers. They [regulations] were meant to try to make it better up there for everybody. We have heard what you have had to say, and we are almost at the end of the season. At that time allow us to take another look at this to see where we can make changes to help everybody up there.”

Councilman Dennis Dare agreed, and stated he looks forward to discussing the issues.

“I listened intently tonight and I heard a lot about how things are broken but nothing about how to fix it. That is the other side to the issue,’ Dare said. “I would like to hear more constructive criticism moving forward, so that we have options that might work for them that might also work for us that we haven’t already considered.”