About Joanne Shriner

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Boardwalk Military Banners To Return Next Summer

The Ocean City Mayor and Council unanimously supported the return next summer of the Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program. Some of the banners are shown above at a recent Ocean City Elks Lodge ceremony where they were presented to family members. Submitted Photo

OCEAN CITY – Ocean City will continue to honor its local home town heroes next summer through a military banner program.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pat Riordan of the OC Elks Lodge Veterans Committee requested of the Mayor and City Council permission to continue the Ocean City Elks Hometown Heroes Military Banner Program in 2015.

The program was created for the community of Ocean City to honor and recognize active duty military personnel that reside in the county. Banners display the official military photo of the service person, as well as his or her name, rank and branch of the Unites States Armed Forces.

The banners are placed on 20 light pole locations on the concrete boardwalk easterly bump outs from Ripley’s Believe It or Not to 4th Street from Springfest in May to Sunfest in September.

To qualify for the Military Banner Program, the honoree has to be an active duty member of the United States Armed Forces and a resident of Worcester County with priority given to active duty military members currently residing in Ocean City.

According to Rioradan, this year’s program featured three Marines, two members from the Air Force, six from the Navy, eight from the Army and one from the Army National Guard,

“We were concerned that we had no Coast Guard people represented because we have a station here in town, but it turned out none of the 32 people stationed there met the requirements of local residency,” he said.

The OC Elks Lodge Veteran’s Committee has identified nine new active duty personnel with a goal to reach 20.

“I don’t think we are going to have a problem meeting that number, but we are asking for everybody’s assistance in identifying active duty military from Worcester County to meet the guidelines,” he said.

Once the banners were removed following Sunfest, a presentation ceremony was held on Oct. 18.

“The program was a very big success … but it [presentation ceremony] was the best part of the program for the year,” Riordan said.

The banner design and printing costs are paid by sponsoring citizens, fraternal organizations and area businesses. However, Riordan asked Public Works personnel to install and remove banners and brackets as needed.

“The banners held up well. We didn’t have any hurricanes, which we were thankful for,” Riordan said. “The only expense to Ocean City would be from the Public Works Department to help put them up for liability reasons.”

Council Secretary Mark Knight enjoyed the presentation ceremony in October at the Elks Lodge.

“I thought the event was really special as evidence by the number of family members that attended. I don’t want that to outdo the fact that those banners were up there every single day and so many people commented on them,” Knight said, as she made a motion to approve the program again for 2015.

The council voted unanimously to approve the banner program for 2015.

“This was one of those programs that were outstanding and well recognized as a tribute to those who serve our country. I get a lot of complaints about just about everything but not about this program. This was something that everybody felt good about,” Mayor Rick Meehan said.

Applications can be mailed to the Ocean City Elks Lodge #2645 and are accepted on an ongoing basis. Banners are raised in the order that the application was received. Applications must include an official military photo of the honoree, verification of military status and proof of residency.

OC Noise Ordinance Tweaks Sought By Entertainment Venues; Current Law’s Fairness Questioned

Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – The restaurant and bar industry is asking for the town’s noise ordinance to be tweaked as a result of the Board of License Commissioners becoming more stringent over violations.

Seacrets owner Leighton Moore came before the Police Commission on Monday morning to recommend changes to the town’s noise ordinance.

Currently, the town’s law regarding noise emanating from dancehalls and nightclubs states, “…no noise emanates from such establishment which is in excess of 65 dB(A) in the daytime hours and 55 dB(A) in the nighttime hours at the adjoining property line or is plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from the establishment; and each day any such dancehall, nightclub or other business, as aforesaid, shall be operated, maintained or carried on in violation of this division shall constitute a separate offense.”

Moore asserted the noise meter reading should be taken from the complainant’s property line, not 50 feet from the business’s property line.

“Right now, if somebody calls in and they are three blocks away, I don’t know if they really heard anything, or heard music from cars on the street,” Moore said.

Moore used the example of Warren’s Mobile Home Park that is the adjoining neighboring community to the north of Seacrets.

“Let’s say the mobile home park calls in. I think it [meter reading] should be taken and ascertained as to the level that they are hearing, not 50 feet from my property line,” he said. “It would be fair if they do get a meter reading, and it is longer than 30 seconds that they warn the establishment that it is indeed in violation, and the establishment has 20 minutes to secure.”

Moore also suggested after three warnings in a calendar year a violation is submitted each time after.

“Winds do change and sometimes in the heat of the battle to make a living you don’t realize it. That wind could be coming from the east and be blowing out into the bay, but if the wind changes and comes from the south the noise will be hitting the mobile home park and we don’t even realize it,” Moore said. “The way it [ordinance] is written somebody could really do damage to the entertainment outside venues or inside venues for that matter. I would like to just see it addressed, and if necessary make it so it could not be arbitrary.”

According to Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Capt. Kevin Kirstein, the department does not receive many complaints over Seacrets but this past summer season there were repeating issues with a few locations downtown.

Moore came before the commission speaking on behalf of a number of licensees, as noise complaints are being viewed with serious consideration by the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners, an appointed body that grants alcohol licenses and hears any type of violation of the licenses once issued. During recent noise violations, the board has shown a proclivity for acting with a heavy hand, particularly for repeat offenders, and has also been hesitant to issue entertainment privileges when neighbors express early concerns.

“The Board of License Commissioners is unmerciful. They don’t want to hear it,” Moore said. “They are now changing what they are giving as far as the license and the ability in what you can do with music and sound because of the transgressions of one or two establishments. I don’t want to see our industry hampered anymore by different changes in attitude that aren’t justified.”

Kirstein explained the department’s noise enforcement unit also follows the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that allows for more flexibility then the ordinance when it comes to noise.

“The law does say 50 feet, but I know the guys take it upon themselves ordinarily to double that distance before they make an enforcement action,” he said. “If we are going to do it by ear, we require the officers to be able to identify the song or the words to include in the report … noise meters are very difficult to use in this town but we try to use them for commercial properties.”

Kirstein furthered the department does not notify the Board of License Commissioners over a noise complaint, only when there is a violation written.

“It is not unusual for us to get a noise complaint and the complainant wants to remain anonymous but Communications does a pretty good job in finding out where they are located, whether it is hotel or a neighborhood,” he said.

Mayor Rick Meehan questioned if the police department’s practice should become policy.

“I am concerned and always have been over anonymous calls, or at least finding out where they come from so that they can take the reading. It seems arbitrary and one sided. I think we all remember we did have a person in town who would do these kinds of things to cause problems for the businesses, and that is just not right,” Meehan said.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres responded anonymous calls are made by those who are afraid of retribution. He added the purpose of the ordinance is to force property owners to keep the noise level confined to their establishments.

“The way this is worded [Moore’s recommendation] it doesn’t make a difference how much noise comes off the property, as long as it doesn’t break the level from where ever they are complaining from,” Ayres said.

Moore persisted an issue arises when nobody complains around his property but a complaint is received from a distance.

“If somebody complains from two blocks away, I would think the noise level would be over 55 dB(A) at that location, not at my location,” he said.

Brett Wolf of the Noise Board interjected the board has dealt with incidents when noise complaints would be received from Baltimore.

“They would just call to complain because they were trying to prove a point against a specific property … so if you wanted to create a problem for a business, you could call every night and report noise, and the police have to respond and eventually will find a noise violation regardless of how diligent that business owner is,” he said.

Police Commission Chair Councilman Doug Cymek, who previously served on the Noise Board, agreed with Moore’s recommendation to take meter readings from the origin of the complaint.

“You have raised some good points, and I support you on a couple of them … I think it warrants some tweaking of the ordinance. We will probably need to sit down and talk with the police department and the head of the noise unit that is out there on the front line taking the readings. I think you will feel a little bit more comfortable,’ he said.

Meehan added suggested letting the commercial industry in on the SOP to ease concerns associated with the Board of License Commissioners issuing license suspensions or fines as a result of the noise violation.

“That is what puts the businesses in jeopardy, and sometimes they aren’t aware of the problem until after the fact,” he said. “I think 99 percent of licensees comply and play by the rules, and the Board of License Commissioners is trying to do the right thing to make sure they handle things properly but we need to make sure whatever is written in here is what we are doing.”

Councilman Dennis Dare made a motion for the police department to report back to the commission at the next meeting on Jan. 12 with the appropriate personnel in attendance to propose any appropriations of the ordinance form.

“The SOP isn’t readily available to a lot of people, and maybe there are some things in the SOP that would be more appropriate in the ordinance,” he said.

Dare suggested having the procedure of what is reported to the Board of License Commissioners reviewed as well.

“I have had complaints from license holders over complaints being submitted as opposed to violations, and if when warnings are given are they reported,” Dare said.

Dare concluded he also wanted the department to consider always having a meter reading conducted if a violation is being submitted.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the motion.

 

 

 

170-Room Hyatt Hotel Planned For Ocean City; Planning Comm. Approves After Parking Debate

A rendering of the proposed project between Baltimore Avenue at 16th Street and the Boardwalk. Rendering by Fisher Architecture

OCEAN CITY – At last night’s Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, it was learned one of the oldest motels in downtown Ocean City will come down to make room for another big name brand hotel.

On Tuesday evening, the Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed a site plan for a proposed Hyatt Place Hotel complex to be located on the east and west side of Baltimore Ave. on 16th Street where the Seascape Motel currently stands. The Seascape Motel is a family-owned operation. The applicant of the new project is Tom Bennett, managing member of Seascape Motel, LLC.

The Seascape Motel dates back to the 1950s and was one of the first motels built in Ocean City. It will be replaced with a 105-guestroom Hyatt Place Hotel with four employee housing units, two bridal prep rooms, associated retail area, conference area and a restaurant on the east side of Baltimore Ave. and the ocean. Across Baltimore Ave., the west building will consist of 65 hotel guestrooms with a restaurant.

Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith explained the large scale project would be built by the town’s code “height-by-right” clause, which allows the number of stories to be determined by square footage. The Seascape property contains up to 70,000 square feet, which allows for an eight-story building, 80 feet in height.

The property is also grandfathered into the town’s code and enjoys the right of nonconformity when it comes to density and parking requirements. The project also includes 12 Development Transfer Rights (DTRs) to allow for 12 additional units.

“They had the ability to have 93 units, so they are going to build 105 units. They have one apartment in the existing building and in exchange they receive two hotel rooms. The DTRs would be required as part of the approval of the site plan,” Smith said. “The four, two-bedroom employee apartments are considered as an accessory to the hotel and do not count as density against the project. They will be deed-restricted as accessory use only, and not for rental purposes.”

The Seascape Motel has accumulated parking over time, and currently has the motel parking lot on the east side of Baltimore Ave. as well as two other smaller lots on the west side between Baltimore and Philadelphia avenues.

As proposed, the project would provide a total of 113 parking spaces with 61 spaces under the east building and 52 spaces under the west building. A total 170 rooms are proposed, which without the project’s nonconformity status would make it deficient by about 70 spaces including parking for the apartments, conference area, retail and restaurants. That does not include employee parking.

Commission member Lauren Taylor pointed out between parking for the entire project and employee parking the project has to be deficient by at least 100 spaces.

“There is already no parking there in the summer,” she said. “Additional parking has to be part of this project.”

According to Smith, the family also owns a parking lot on the west side of Baltimore Ave. and 15th Street that provides about 48 parking spaces but the proposal does not commit the lot to the project.

“The property does enjoy nonconformity and although that may discomfort some of you, they have that right,” said attorney Hugh Cropper said, representing the applicant. “The Planning Commission cannot go back and change that code … legally we do not need a parking waiver.”

Cropper explained the separate parking lot on 15th Street is owned by the same family but a different LLC.

“It may be available for a practical matter of employee parking or overflow parking but it is not going to be part of the project,” he said.

While the commission cannot override the code, members are still responsible for ensuring the health, welfare and safety of the community, commission member Peck Miller stated.

“It is our job to make sure the neighborhoods don’t get stressed, that its safe, and we take care of the surrounding community, and I don’t feel this meets that test at all,” Miller said. “We are redeveloping Ocean City, and we should look at the areas in this town … you are not being a good neighbor to do this kind of project to this scale.”

Cropper responded the commission’s mandate of ensuring health, welfare and safety does not give it the power to overrule the law.

“They have not even utilized all of their nonconformity. As an absolute legal matter, they will be less non-conforming at the end of the day then they are now,” he said. “It is beyond your authority, beyond your job, to rewrite the code. You are not recognizing a legally existing nonconformity.”

Taylor, whose family redeveloped the former Santa Maria Motel to the Seascape’s south into a Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, persisted the lack of parking is not only a bad business decision, but will cause a negative impact on the resort.

“I will tell you most people bring more than one car when they come, and the front desk will have nothing but people standing there screaming because they can’t find a place to park. When we redeveloped, we did not use our nonconformity because we wanted to bring it up to current code wanting our guests to be happy by having a place to park,” she said. “You will be charging people $300 a night and they will have nowhere to park. They are not going to want to come back to Ocean City.”

Commission member Palmer Gillis furthered the hotel guests will start to impede on other businesses’ parking lots and neighborhood streets.

“The issue is a how extreme it is,” he said. “As a business person, I always try to exceed the parking code … you are pushing the envelope too far. There is legality and reality. The legality is you meet the code. The reality is you are putting stress on the neighborhood and it will not serve the project as well as it should.”

The parking deficiency for the hotel rooms alone is a problem, Commission member Joel Brous argued, as he asked for some kind of compromise.

Cropper asked for a recess to discuss the issue with the family. Just a few minutes later, he returned before the commission, offering the lot on 15th Street to be used as part of the Hyatt Place Hotel project.

“The family respects your concerns, and if we can get an approval tonight they will deed-restrict the other property and tie it into this project,” Cropper said. “With the additional parking lot, the project would become less deficient by about 30 parking spaces.”

Miller recommended the additional lot be valeted to allow for stacked and compact parking that would lessen the deficiency even further. He made a motion to approve the site plan contingent upon the parking lot on 15th Street be covenant with the project, DTRs be included, the four apartments be deeded as employee housing only and the bridal prep rooms not be rental units.

The commission voted 6-0 to approve with Chair Pam Buckley absent.

According to Keith Fisher of Fisher Architecture, who designed the project, demolition of the Seascape Motel is planned for mid-January, and the east building is estimated to be complete by the 2016 summer season.

The demolition will include several businesses on the Boardwalk side of the existing motel, including Peppers Tavern, a mainstay on the Boardwalk for decades that was formerly known as the Tavern by the Sea. Its’ fate as well as other businesses on the Boardwalk side of the property are unclear at this point but they will be razed as part of the property redevelopment.

 

 

 

 

Major Hotel Addition Planned For Ocean City; 15-Story Structure Would Be Connected To Existing Quality Inn

Rendering by Becker Morgan

OCEAN CITY – A new oceanfront 15-story hotel proposed for Ocean City received formal site plan approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission last week.

Last Tuesday evening the Planning and Zoning Commission held an informal discussion regarding the Planned Overlay District to include a 15-story hotel, which will have 101 units. The site of the proposed hotel in the Planned Overlay District is on the south side of 34th Street on the ocean.

The design of the new hotel was presented by Jack Mumford of Becker Morgan Group. The applicant is OC Hotel Holdings, LLC.

Currently, the Quality Inn & Suites Beach Front stands on the north side of 33rd Street. The new hotel will be built on a vacant lot to the north of the Quality Inn and as proposed will be connected to the Quality Inn to share amenities.

Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith explained existing projects that are similar to what is being proposed are the Hilton located on 32nd Street and the ocean, the Holiday Inn on 17th Street and the ocean and the Gateway Grand on 48th Street and the ocean, which were also designed by Becker Morgan Group.

According to Ocean City Code, construction in the Planned Overlay District must meet a minimum of 90,000 square feet of lot area located in the permitted zoning district.

“There is something unique about it that it offers something better than the ‘factory version’ that would have more land coverage, so you are getting more open space,” Smith said.

At first, a 12-story building was designed to go along with Ocean City Code’s “height-by-right” regulation, Mumford explained, but the hotel ended up with only a few units facing the ocean while most faced the street on the north side, elevated parking and an elevated pool.

“We decided to come back with a smaller foot print with 15 stories rather than 12, so it is about 30 feet taller than what would be allowed with height-by-right but we were able to get all of the units oceanfront,” Mumford said. “We were also able to keep a vast majority of the site open, so we have more landscaping and light and air for the neighborhood.”

Mumford added the plan also includes more than what will be required for parking.

“The new hotel will be attached to the existing Quality Inn. It may function as two different brands with a shared front desk, but basically the amenities of the existing Quality Inn will be shared,” Mumford said. “We are adding a new pool on the oceanfront, and we enlarged the trash collection area but they will still work together.”

Mumford furthered, as done with the Hilton, Holiday Inn and Gateway Grand they are stepping the building, so it absorbs its own shadow as it gets taller. According to Ocean City Code, a shadow study was conducted on Sept. 7 at 10 a.m.

“We managed the shadows so there is no shadows cast across the street on neighbors or onto the beach past the dune line,” Mumford said.

In the near future, a formal site plan will come before the commission for review, attorney Joe Moore stated, who is representing the applicant.

“It really strikes you as a beautiful building,” he said.

Commission member Palmer Gillis and Commission Chair Pam Buckley both agreed.

“It is very functional with great landscaping,” Commission member Lauren Taylor said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously that as a result of a preliminary discussion the proposed site plan appears to be satisfactory. A formal site plan review will come before the commission in the future for a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council for approval.

More Ocean City Canals Added To Off-Season Dredging Effort

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OCEAN CITY – Three more canals were added to the to-do list this week as Ocean City moves forward with the much anticipated and high-priority canal dredging project.

City Engineer Terry McGean came before the Mayor and City Council on Wednesday afternoon to amend the existing dredging contract with Hi-Tide Marine to include dredging canals at 25th street and on the east and west sides of Tern Dr., covering 5,214 cubic yards at the price of $47 per cubic yard, totaling $245,058.

McGean explained in October of 2013 the council made its first move on the canal dredging project. The council appropriated $500,000 from the city’s fund balance and awarded Hi-Tide Marine the bid to conduct the first phase of canal dredging in February.

“By the time we were able to get all the procurement documents together and get a contract awarded, we basically had about 15 days before the federal government was going to shut us down for restrictions for flounder. They won’t let us dredge basically after April 1, so we weren’t able to get the dredging started until this fall,’ McGean said.

The first phase of canal dredging currently underway includes Canal #19, which is at Trimpers and Hitchens avenues; Canal #29, which is 48th Street surrounded by the Wight Bay Condominium; and Canal #21, which is on the south side of 52nd Street.

The contract also includes four large storm drain outfalls where the sediment from those outfalls is plugging the canals. The four outfalls are located on Seaweed Lane, Tunnel Ave., Sinepuxent Ave. and Jamaica Ave.

“The first three canals were the shallowest canals, so they were our top priority, and the outfalls we received historic complaints about,” McGean said.

McGean furthered the council approved $250,000 in the current Fiscal Year 2015 budget for additional dredging, and Hi-Tide Marine has agreed to hold its bid unit price to dredge additional canals this season.

“I looked at out canal priority list … and tried to find some canals that would approach that total and were relatively in the same general area as where Hi-Tide is working now. I identified three canals,” he said.

The first canal is located at 25 1/2 Street where the old Misty Harbor Motel was once located. The property is currently vacant and the bulkhead was recently improved.

The second canal is between Tern and Plover drives, and third canal is between Tern Dr. and the back side of Jolly Roger Amusement Park.

According to McGean, the bulkhead between Tern and Plover is generally in good condition but not so much behind Jolly Roger that has moved up in priority between the effects of the Robin Drive Shore Line Project and Hurricane Sandy.

“Is it ready to collapse? No, they have done some structural repairs. However, it is leaking. This is a tough one because on other canals when we have failing bulkheads on both sides you would have an incentive for those people because they are docking their boats. At Jolly Roger. no one is docking boats in that canal, and it is a very long stretch of bulkhead we are talking about,” McGean said. “If we say we are not going to dredge this canal until the bulkhead is repaired or replaced, it will be quite some time because it is not at the point where we would condemn it. It is in that grey area, and in this case you would be penalizing the people on the east side of Tern for something they necessarily don’t have a lot of control over.”

Councilman Doug Cymek suggested McGean speak with the Jolly Roger property owner who could be amenable to interim bulkhead repairs.

“Knowing the owner, I would say, yes, and I would be happy to go down there and try to work something out,” McGean said.

Mayor Rick Meehan recalled when canal dredging discussions arrived it was noted the canals without decent bulkheads should not be prioritized.

“We want to make sure when we dredge the canals it would be effective, and for it to be effective as it can possibly be that would be the right thing to do,” he said.

Councilman Wayne Hartman asked where the town stands with the canal dredging schedule.

McGean responded with the first phase just now being conducted and lack of funding the town is behind schedule.

“It will take seven years to get all of the high-priority canals done. I have permitted the first three years’ worth of canals. We would like to be able to spend $500,000 to $600,000 per year to reach that goal. The first year we took $500,000 out of fund balance. This current year we appropriated $250,000, so we are behind this year,” he said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the amendment to the existing canal contract to include dredging canals at 25th Street and on the east and west sides of Tern Dr.

“I have already had a gentleman come up to me to thank us for finally beginning the dredging process. He understood it had been a long time coming but he was happy that it had begun … we can now see the light at the end of the canal as things are moving forward,” the mayor said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Ocean City Canals Added To Off-Season Dredging Effort

Front G

OCEAN CITY – Three more canals were added to the to-do list this week as Ocean City moves forward with the much anticipated and high-priority canal dredging project.

City Engineer Terry McGean came before the Mayor and City Council on Wednesday afternoon to amend the existing dredging contract with Hi-Tide Marine to include dredging canals at 25th street and on the east and west sides of Tern Dr., covering 5,214 cubic yards at the price of $47 per cubic yard, totaling $245,058.

McGean explained in October of 2013 the council made its first move on the canal dredging project. The council appropriated $500,000 from the city’s fund balance and awarded Hi-Tide Marine the bid to conduct the first phase of canal dredging in February.

“By the time we were able to get all the procurement documents together and get a contract awarded, we basically had about 15 days before the federal government was going to shut us down for restrictions for flounder. They won’t let us dredge basically after April 1, so we weren’t able to get the dredging started until this fall,’ McGean said.

The first phase of canal dredging currently underway includes Canal #19, which is at Trimpers and Hitchens avenues; Canal #29, which is 48th Street surrounded by the Wight Bay Condominium; and Canal #21, which is on the south side of 52nd Street.

The contract also includes four large storm drain outfalls where the sediment from those outfalls is plugging the canals. The four outfalls are located on Seaweed Lane, Tunnel Ave., Sinepuxent Ave. and Jamaica Ave.

“The first three canals were the shallowest canals, so they were our top priority, and the outfalls we received historic complaints about,” McGean said.

McGean furthered the council approved $250,000 in the current Fiscal Year 2015 budget for additional dredging, and Hi-Tide Marine has agreed to hold its bid unit price to dredge additional canals this season.

“I looked at out canal priority list … and tried to find some canals that would approach that total and were relatively in the same general area as where Hi-Tide is working now. I identified three canals,” he said.

The first canal is located at 25 1/2 Street where the old Misty Harbor Motel was once located. The property is currently vacant and the bulkhead was recently improved.

The second canal is between Tern and Plover drives, and third canal is between Tern Dr. and the back side of Jolly Roger Amusement Park.

According to McGean, the bulkhead between Tern and Plover is generally in good condition but not so much behind Jolly Roger that has moved up in priority between the effects of the Robin Drive Shore Line Project and Hurricane Sandy.

“Is it ready to collapse? No, they have done some structural repairs. However, it is leaking. This is a tough one because on other canals when we have failing bulkheads on both sides you would have an incentive for those people because they are docking their boats. At Jolly Roger. no one is docking boats in that canal, and it is a very long stretch of bulkhead we are talking about,” McGean said. “If we say we are not going to dredge this canal until the bulkhead is repaired or replaced, it will be quite some time because it is not at the point where we would condemn it. It is in that grey area, and in this case you would be penalizing the people on the east side of Tern for something they necessarily don’t have a lot of control over.”

Councilman Doug Cymek suggested McGean speak with the Jolly Roger property owner who could be amenable to interim bulkhead repairs.

“Knowing the owner, I would say, yes, and I would be happy to go down there and try to work something out,” McGean said.

Mayor Rick Meehan recalled when canal dredging discussions arrived it was noted the canals without decent bulkheads should not be prioritized.

“We want to make sure when we dredge the canals it would be effective, and for it to be effective as it can possibly be that would be the right thing to do,” he said.

Councilman Wayne Hartman asked where the town stands with the canal dredging schedule.

McGean responded with the first phase just now being conducted and lack of funding the town is behind schedule.

“It will take seven years to get all of the high-priority canals done. I have permitted the first three years’ worth of canals. We would like to be able to spend $500,000 to $600,000 per year to reach that goal. The first year we took $500,000 out of fund balance. This current year we appropriated $250,000, so we are behind this year,” he said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the amendment to the existing canal contract to include dredging canals at 25th Street and on the east and west sides of Tern Dr.

“I have already had a gentleman come up to me to thank us for finally beginning the dredging process. He understood it had been a long time coming but he was happy that it had begun … we can now see the light at the end of the canal as things are moving forward,” the mayor said.

 

Concept Pitched To Market Ocean City As Major Fishing Destination

A new website, www.FishInOC.com, has been created to market the town's popular industry. Screenshort courtesy of D3Corp and Fish In OC, LLC

OCEAN CITY – A local fishing expert could be casting the line to reel in a larger population of visitors to Ocean City to take advantage of all the fishing opportunities the resort has to offer.

On Monday afternoon, Scott Lenox of Fish In OC, LLC., who is also a host of Hooked on OC, pitched the travel show concept of Fish In OC to the Tourism Commission.

“Scott [Lenox] approached me several months ago about a concept to market Ocean City as a destination for fishing similar to Ocean City Golf Getaway, which is a market co-op of all the golf courses. It really is an industry that is scattered … with real no cohesive effort to push fishing,” Tourism Director Donna Abbott said.

Lenox first appeared before the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), which favored the concept but recommended he go before the Tourism Commission as TAB’s duties focus on bringing forward and assisting to fund new special events, not marketing ventures.

Lenox explained he attended a golf trade show last March representing Ocean Pines with OC Golf Getaway where an attendee recognized him from the Hooked On OC show.

“We started talking and by the end of the conversation he was coming to Ocean City to see what the White Marlin Open was all about,” Lenox said.

That is when Lenox realized there is not a co-op marketing initiative for fishing in Ocean City.

“The ball started to get rolling … and now it is way further along than I would have expected in the first year,” said Lenox, who has taken the concept on independently. “I have gotten a lot of industry support … I currently have eight boats that are going to be involved with me, and all but one marina that is still thinking about it right now, as well as a lot of support from the shoulder industry such as restaurants and hotels.”

Lenox has created a Fish In OC trade show booth and has already booked six outdoor trade shows scattered through New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

“There is everything from fishing to hunting, to people selling jet skis and RVs. The first show is in Harrisburg in February. I know the town goes there to represent Ocean City and the tourism part of it but I am going to be there for both,” Lenox said.

Lenox and D3Corp has also created a website, www.FishInOC.com, and a trip planner that will offer the different boats in Ocean City, accommodations, things to do and more.

Fish In OC is also giving away fishing trips in Ocean City as a mechanism to build an email database. The same idea has been done by the town with the OC Experience, which is a trade show booth concept brought forward by event promoter Brad Hoffman a few years ago.

Lenox proposed to the Tourism Commission a $15,000 advertising package that includes the display of Ocean City tourism videos while Fish In OC attends the six outdoor travel shows where a potential 300,000 people attend.

“On one television I am going to have Hooked On OC … on the opposite side of the booth I am going to show tourism videos,” Lenox explained.

Also, the Ocean City logo will be displayed on the front page of the Fishing Planner with a full page advertisement on the back of the Fishing Planner as done with the OC Golf Getaway magazine.

There will be a link to the town’s website, www.OCocean.com on the front page of www.FishInOC.com, along with Ocean City features such as the Boardwalk will be listed under Fish In OC website’s Things to Do tab. Ocean City’s Vacation Guide will be distributed at the trade shows to at least 300,000 people. Lenox does the writing for the fishing section of that guide.

“I am going to be in a different neck of the woods, shaking hands with people … and any of you that know me and know how long I have lived in Ocean City should feel confident that if any questions come up about Ocean City in general I would be ok to answer those too. You would have a good representative at the shows not just for fishing but for the tourism part of it also,” Lenox said.

Abbott pointed out the current budget includes $10,000 to fund travel show expenses.

“When you look at what Ocean City offers, outdoor recreational activities such as this is part of the draw to Ocean City. Obviously we have successful marinas, businesses that rent boats and things of that nature,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “It is good to change it up a little it. There is a growing need for marketing opportunities for fishing … I would suggest that this becomes our trade show initiative for this year.”

Councilman Dennis Dare agreed there is a large market for fishing in Ocean City that not only includes hundreds of boat rentals and marinas, but also bait and tackle shops, as well as hotels and restaurants will benefit.

The mayor recommended the Town support Fish In OC with the $10,000 advertising budgeted for trade shows as well as throw in OC Experience’s equipment as an in-kind service to make up for the $5,000 difference.

The commission voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation to the full council to approve the marketing opportunity with Fish In OC, LLC to operate the Town of Ocean City’s trade show initiative this year. The concept will come before the council next week.

 

 

Councilman-Elect James: ‘I Believe My Age Will Be Positive For Council’

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OCEAN CITY – Matthew James rocked the local government scene this week as not only the youngest person to be elected to the City Council but the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s municipal election.

James, 21, received the most votes in the 2014 municipal election becoming the youngest person to ever serve on the Ocean City Mayor and City Council. James received 1,666 votes followed by Wayne Hartman, who received 1,345 votes, incumbent Council President Lloyd Martin, who received 1,342 votes, and Tony DeLuca, who received 1,287 votes. There were a total of 2,348 voters in this year’s election.

All the votes were in by 8 p.m. on Tuesday night and an hour later the public filed into the hall where the voting took place that day at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. All candidates took stance with pen and paper in hand prepared to begin tallying the votes.

The number of votes each voting booth received per candidate was read aloud, and by the third machine attention started to gather toward James, who was surrounded by family and friends. In the end, James was announced as the winning candidate receiving the most votes as his supporters gathered around him.

“I am extremely excited, and just couldn’t be happier right now. I received a lot of support from my family and friends, and obviously the voters of Ocean City, so I am very appreciative of that,” James said on Wednesday morning.

The James clan had a long day on Tuesday greeting and speaking with voters, as many candidates do on Election Day.

“I was getting a lot of positive feedback from the voters, so I felt pretty good about the way things were going,” James said. “I never would have expected to be the top vote getter. I had a few people tell me right before we went in that they had heard a lot of positive feedback throughout the day, and they thought it was possible but this being my first time running for anything I was surprised to get the most votes. I thought he [Martin] was going to get the most votes. He has been very supportive, and I can’t thank him enough for all he has done for me.”

James was the most nervous the morning of Election Day but as he spoke with voters throughout the day his nerves began to calm. He said he walked into the announcement of the election results with confidence.

James attributes receiving the most votes to his extensive campaign that included thousands of dollars in advertising and old fashioned campaigning.

“I knocked on a lot of doors and met a lot of people. I had a lot of people ask about my age but I usually left the door feeling confident in the conversation that I had with the voter. Getting out and meeting people was the biggest thing, and leaving them with an experience for when they walked into the voter booth and saw my name they remembered I had to say,” James said.

James, who is son of Carousel Group Hotel Managing Partner Michael James and his wife, Marilyn, was raised in Ocean City’s tourism industry, as well as assisted in his father’s political campaigns for Maryland State Delegate in 2006 and Maryland State Senate in 2010.

“We are a pretty politically active family, and I think that could have helped. I did have people question why I was doing this or what made me run for City Council, and I think my political involvement on my dad’s two campaigns is what led to my interest in politics at such a young age,” he said.

James also attributed his votes to being able to relate to the younger Ocean City generation. However, he pointed out the majority of voters in Ocean City is an older population.

“I believe my age will be positive for council. Having a young person on council will be beneficial just to have a different outlook on things, and to have a different perspective on many of the things that come before the council,” he said. “I am open to hearing what everybody has to say. Even if I don’t agree with them … I will always listen to a person’s views and new ideas.”

As far as living a life of a 21-year-old while serving on council as well as being a college student, James believes he will be able to balance both.

“I don’t think I am cutting myself short at all. If anything I think I am helping myself. This will be great for me, and positively affect everybody,” he said.

After being sworn in during Thursday evening’s Mayor and City Council organizational meeting, James is looking forward to beginning the learning experience.

“At first I think I am going to listen to the council members, residents, and business owners, and hear what everybody has to say. It is going to be a learning experience. Obviously I have never done this before,” he said. “Coming into this as a new face in local government, at first I need to sit down and listen.”

During the organizational meeting, who will serve as council president and council secretary will be voted on, both of which James says he has no interest in at this time. However, it is possibility one day.

“I definitely see myself staying around the area. I love Ocean City and I plan on being here for a long time. I am not sure I am going to serve on council for the rest of my life but I plan to be involved in the community and an active participant in local politics,” he said.

 

 

Election Results

Matt James: 1,666

Wayne Hartman: 1,345

Lloyd Martin: 1,342

Tony DeLuca: 1,287

Chris Rudolf: 1,075

Joseph Hall: 775

Joe Cryer: 464

 

 

 

 

More Enforcing Of Rental Regs Sought In OC; Planning Commission, Council To Discuss Rentals

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OCEAN CITY – Although a formal recommendation to the Mayor and City Council was not a result of this week’s Planning and Zoning Commission’s deliberation over rental issues in Ocean City, a list of goals was formed as the commission looks forward to an open discussion with the legislative body.

The Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing last month to consider amending Ocean City’s Code in regards to Single Family Residential District (R-1) and Mobile Home Residential District (MH) for the purpose of regulating short-term and long-term rentals to protect the character and compatibility of the districts as single-family neighborhoods.

The public hearing came on the heels of growing complaints over rental properties. According to the city, there are 3,845 parcels included in the R-1 and MH districts with 276 of those obtaining rental licenses. Between 2013 and now, there have been 67 complaints logged in those areas over 19 months. Only 13 properties received complaints, which is 4 percent of the total number of 276. The complaints received are primarily from residents of the Mallard Island community.

The hearing left standing room only in council chambers with the majority of speakers asking the commission to focus on enhancing the enforcement of existing rental regulations, as well as complaints over overflowing trash, noise, parking congestion and the number of occupants of rentals being well over then the code allows.

On Wednesday evening, the commission reconvened to deliberate the findings of the hearing with each member taking their turn to state an opinion.

“The last thing I want to do is create more laws, rules and regulations or ordinances, so whatever path this takes us down I think our path ought to be to utilize the tools that we already have and not create more,” Commission member Palmer Gillis said. “It seems to me with the testimony that we heard and staff comments there are existing laws, federal and municipal, that will prevail and create a framework from which we can provide further guidance to the community.”

Gillis questioned additional funding for enhanced funding and pointed out the City of Salisbury provides enterprise funds for such expenses.

“I don’t know the money aspect as much but I think we need to put laws around the rental licensing money that is generated, which I believe is $1,060,000 a year to better enforce and improve the methodology that we have to enforce, implement and monitor existing laws,” he said.

Commission member Joel Brous was in agreement existing regulations need to be better enforced, adding smaller subsets of the R-1 district could be focused on when it comes to rentals.

“Not across the board because too much is set in stone but focus on the integrity of some of the smaller areas of R-1,” he said.

Commission member Peck Miller furthered, the town could better educate property owners and renters of existing rental laws.

“Tying into the landlords is very important in enforcing the existing laws that we have. I am not up for more rules and regulations, but I do want to make sure the sanctity of the single-family homes is taken care of, especially the people who live here,” he said.

Miller added the commission should consider placing a seven-day minimum on rentals in the R-1 district to help address problems.

Commission member John Staley recognized property owners’ frustrations with the police when a complaint is received, as many explained the police would drive by but wouldn’t stop and the problems, especially noise, would continue into the early hours of the morning.

“Also regarding licensing, for the number of people that rent versus the number of people that pay for a license is a big difference. There is a lot of money involved in that, and I think we should do a better job in licensing this,” he said.

Commission member Lauren Taylor felt that the rental license database should be better accessed by police followed by a notification to property owners.

“What seems to be missing is the attachment of how many people are allowed. The rental agreement has to state the law of occupancy,” she said. “In this age of databases, it seems to me the police should be able to pull it up to find out how many people are supposed to be there.”

Commission member Chris Shanahan also recognized a major complaint was high numbers of people occupying a rental.

“We have to solve that on the front end because that is resulting in the other problems of trash and noise. It is just too many people in a small area, so we have to determine how to regulate that better,” he said. “I am also of the opinion that we don’t need more fees or costs associated with having a rental property. I think the hammer should be on the back end with violations. These people have to understand the rules are in place and if they are violating the rules on a consistent basis there has to be a serious hammer that comes down on them financially.”

Shanahan also felt the rental database should be better kept up to date, especially with police filing reports of complaints to keep accurate figures with it comes to problem tenants.

“Enforcement is the key. I don’t think the police can do it all themselves. I think we need more zoning officials to help,” he said.

Commission Chair Pam Buckley echoed many of the same opinions as her colleagues.

“There are some issues, but I don’t think we need to start from scratch and recreate the zoning ordinance,” she said. “A rental license is a privilege and with that comes responsibility, and you are responsible for that property and its surrounding neighbors.”

Buckley furthered, the first piece of information required for a rental license should be a 24/7 contact who can be available if a problem should arise, and if the contact does not respond then fines should start stacking up.

“If we can have the rental agreement on site, that would be the best thing to do because people should have some sort of contract to be there. It should be in some type of legal form whether it’s the names of who is supposed to be there, the dates and a signature,” she said. “One of our biggest things is making sure everyone is getting a rental license and that is going to be part of the education process of the neighbors and the people that live in the community. If they don’t have a license and they are renting, there is a fine for that.”

The commission recognized the recently re-established Property Review and Enforcement Strategies for Safe-housing (PRESS) Committee is currently addressing rental issues as well.

PRESS Committee is a group of town officials authorized to address communitywide quality of life issues. The group consists of members from the police, building, zoning, fire marshal and finance departments, functions as a task force designed to meet regularly and discuss civil and criminal code violations within the community.

Miller concluded the main points of focus were having a 24/7 contact on file and existing rules and regulations be made more public, heightened education,  imposing stiffer fines, funded enforcement, consider a seven-day minimum for rentals in the R-1 district and PRESS to become more active.

Buckley was tasked to create a template of a recommendation to the Mayor and Council and asked for the commission to get on the council’s work session agenda as soon as possible to have an open discussion on how to move forward.

 

Woman Cracks Own Case After Spotting Stranger Riding Her Stolen Bike In Downtown OC

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OCEAN CITY – One Ocean City local’s good fortune of recovering her stolen bikes serves as reminder to seasonal and year-round residents to take precaution to keep their own bicycles safe this summer.

For many Ocean City residents, their bicycles are a sentimental object, whether it is a means of transportation or the enjoyment of peddling around the resort during the summer months. Unfortunately, many bicycles fall victim to theft and never seen again.

This was not the case for Heather Lowe, 26, who decided to take the case of her stolen bicycles into her own hands.

“At first I was really upset that my bike was stolen. I felt that I couldn’t trust the town anymore because I felt that we lived in a safer community,” Lowe said. “Taking it into my own hands I feel successful that I was able to get my bikes back and it wasn’t a total lost. With the police telling me it happens all the time, it is sad. I was ecstatic to recover my bikes because it more of a sentimental recovery then financial.”

Lowe noticed two of her bicycles had been stolen on the morning of Sunday, May 18. When she arrived home from work the night, her bikes were still in place under her condominium building in the area of 128th Street but the next morning the cable to the bike lock had been cut.

According to Lowe, when she filed a report with the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) that day, the seasonal officer who reported to the scene explained bicycle thefts are common in Ocean City this time of the year, and it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if the bicycles were never recovered.

“He didn’t reassure me my bikes would be returned, and had said this type of thing happens frequently,” she said. “I had texted him pictures of the bicycles I owned that he included in the report, and said he would do a roll call entry, so that every shift would see the pictures of the bicycles.”

On Wednesday, June 4, around 5 p.m. Lowe was entering Ocean City from Route 50. While stopped at the traffic light on Baltimore Ave. and 2nd Street, she observed a female riding one of her stolen bicycles. It was immediately identifiable as it is a pink cruiser decked out with local surf shop stickers.

“I called the police while I followed her onto the Boardwalk, and I told her she was riding my stolen bicycle. She was a foreign exchange student. I held her there until the police came, and while we were waiting she had told me she bought the bicycle from a gentleman that lives in her building,” Lowe said. “Whoever stole them had to have a pickup truck, and means to go around uptown, cutting cables and locks, stealing many bikes.”

Lowe was able to find out the female lived in the apartment building, Summer Semester, on 2nd Street and St. Louis Ave.

“They tried to sell my bike to her for $50 but bargained down to $30. From what she was saying, it sounded like he was selling numerous bikes. Her friends had walked up on the Boardwalk and acknowledged they were aware they had bought stolen bikes,” Lowe said.

Once the officer arrived and had confirmed it was Lowe’s stolen bicycle, she retrieved her bicycle and returned home.

“Once I found out that this guy living in her building was selling stolen bicycles I was curious,” she said.

Around 6:30 a.m. on Friday, June 6, Lowe was on the way to drop her boyfriend, Craig Hetrick, off at work when they drove past Summer Semester and spotted her other stolen bicycle parked under the building. At that moment, Lowe saw two seasonal officers and waved them over to explain the situation. The action attracted the attention of Summer Semester building manager George Harkins.

“He said he didn’t tolerate stolen property under his building, and a week previous a husband and wife had come and recovered one of their stolen bikes,” Lowe said. “Just from my observation from under the building it looked like there were several other stolen bikes from uptown because there were beach cruisers with Fenwick Island Surf Shop stickers on them.”

By watching surveillance footage, Harkins was able to identify a male tenant, a J-1 student, selling the stolen bicycles to other J-1 students. Harkins also confirmed there was more than one case where stolen bicycles were recovered from Summer Semester that was sold by the same student. Once identifying the suspect, Harkins turned him over to the OCPD, as well as his sponsor with the United Work and Travel program, and he was evicted from the building.

“He told the police he was selling used bikes for someone from West Ocean City for a commission,” Harkins said.

OCPD Public Affairs Specialist Lindsay O’Neal confirmed this week OCPD is currently investigating the case. According to O’Neal, there have been a number of bicycle thefts reported so far this summer.

In the meantime, O’Neal advised anyone who has a bicycle stolen to contact the police department at 410-723-6600. An officer will respond to file a description of the bicycle, so that if any officer comes across a bike that is believed to be stolen or abandoned, the department can determine who the bike belongs to and return it to the owner.

O’Neal furthered the first thing a citizen who owns a bicycle should do is to register it with OCPD by filling out a form and sending it to OCPD or stopping by the Public Safety Building. A bicycle registration form can be downloaded from http://oceancitymd.gov/Police/registration.html.