OC Real Estate Industry Rallies Against Proposed Rental Changes; New District Would Prohibit Weekly Rentals In Certain Areas

Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – The local real estate community is rallying together and seeking support this week with the Mayor and City Council expected to deliberate this month on the implementation of a district that could ban short term rentals in certain parts of town.

The Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing last month and voted to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to establish a R-1A Single Family Residential District that would provide an outlet for neighborhoods to prohibit rentals shorter than one year.

The proposed ordinance states, “The purpose of this district is to provide for established year-round residents to maintain the integrity of family values, youth values, and the blessings of quiet seclusion and to make the area a sanctuary for people living in the neighborhood and to avoid the adverse effects of transient short term rentals. This district is for single-family residential development, together with accessory uses as may be necessary or are normally compatible with residential surroundings.”

The permitted use in an R-1A district would be a residence used for a year-round, or 12-month minimum, rental. Short-term rentals, for example the common weekly vacation rentals, would be prohibited. If an R-1A district is added to the code, a neighborhood can apply to rezone and a public hearing would be held before the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider the request.

During last month’s public hearing on the ordinance, several Mallard Island residents who live 15th Street bayside and other citizens spoke in favor of the proposed R-1A district but a larger force of rental property owners and Realtors in attendance voiced opposition.

However, the commission voted 5-2 to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to approve the new R-1A district. The commission described the district as “another tool in the toolbox” recognizing it will only be considered if requested by a neighborhood.

The Planning and Zoning Commission’s favorable recommendation to implement the R-1A district is scheduled to be discussed by the Mayor and City Council at the July 14 work session.

Prior to the discussion, Coastal Association of Realtors (CAR) and Coldwell Banker Vacations are working to encourage their membership to voice their concerns in the meantime.

“This measure directly impacts all single-family investment properties in Ocean City,” CAR submitted in marketing materials this week in regards to the proposed R-1A district.

Both CAR and Coldwell Banker Vacations are advising their membership to attend Monday’s Mayor and City Council regular session, call the Planning and Zoning Department or email the Mayor and City Council to voice concerns.

“If you do not actively oppose this measure, there is a very real possibility that it will be approved, setting a dangerous precedent that could spread throughout the State of Maryland,” CAR said in its marketing message.

In a letter, titled “Proposed Legislation That Would Impact Your Investment Property,” addressed to Coldwell Banker Vacations membership, Regional Vice President Christopher Mitchell and General Manager William Ritz expressed fear the R-1A district will begin to ban vacationers from Ocean City. Letters of opposition to the Planning and Zoning Commission dated June 10, 2015, and to the Mayor and Council dated Aug. 5, 2014 were also provided to the rental property owners.

“… The tourism industry is what drives our local economy. From the many restaurants and shops to the hotels and charter fishing boats, without our annual influx of tourists, none of these businesses would survive. One of the things that make Ocean City great is the variety of accommodations options from which to choose,” the letter to the planning commission states. “The vacation rental industry is unique in that it offers not the only more variety for vacationers, but also beneficial way for people to purchase a second home. Buyers are able to off-set expenses associated with second home ownership by offering it as a short term rental. Obviously, the ability to use and enjoy the property themselves is not possible if the property is rented only on a 12 month basis. In such cases, it is no longer a vacation home, but strictly an investment property and most of the buyers in the secondary home market are not looking for that type of arrangement.”

The letter cites a recent article published on www.vrmintel.com demonstrating how the implementation of restrictive policies in California has negatively impacted home sales in that market compared to the national average.

According to the article, four major California cities have voted to ban traditional vacation rentals of less than 30 days, resulting in a decline in vacation home sales of 5 percent in 2014 and of 6 percent in 2013. While, the National Association of Realtors published its 2015 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey which reported that sales in 2014 were up 57.4 percent over 2013 in the market in the United States as a whole.

“These facts show in real terms that the restriction of property rights negatively impacts property values, which is a direct contradiction to one the stated purposes of this proposal for Ocean City,” Mitchell and Ritz stated.

The letter recognizes there were a total of 13 R-1 zoned properties that received complaints in the past two years, which represents only 4 percent of the total amount of properties licensed R-1 zoned properties in town.

“Any decision to alter zoning regulations that will affect current and future generations of property owners and potential investors, based on such a small number of issues, certainly gives all appearances of an overreaction,” they stated. “Better enforcement of the current regulations is the best answer. Rental companies and owners alike need to work harder to ensure that the proper information is being relayed when offering properties for rent in any current R1 district. If problem situations occur in these properties, quick action by the property owner or rental company must be taken to address it. If renters are found to be in violation of the terms of their rental agreement, the agreement should be terminated and the property vacated.”

The letter echoed Joe Wilson, who represented CAR during the Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing, in his concern that a R-1A district will create a domino effect that will regulate short-term rentals out of all single family areas in Ocean Cit.

“Vacationers who choose these types of properties will not simply move to multi-family areas, but will take their business to other municipalities that will better welcome them and cater to their needs. These families will establish their vacation traditions in a different resort, and Ocean City will lose these visitors for generations to come,” the letter concluded. “These renters will no longer fall in love with Ocean City, and will not decide to purchase that vacation home on our shores, but will do so somewhere else. Our local economy will be impacted.”

The most recent letter comes 11 months after Mitchell and then-Regional Vice President Susan Holt addressed the matter in a letter to the Mayor and Council.

“We do not want renters disrupting the peace of others, … Occupancy limits must be disclosed and enforced by the property owner and rental company,” that 2014 letter read. “The renters need to be informed that if they break the rules they will be held responsible for their actions and removed from the property. Let’s all try to improve the situation with better communication and education rather than send our valued visitors elsewhere.”

 

Walk Smart Campaign Kicks Into High Gear With Peak Beach Season’s Arrival

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OCEAN CITY – As the Town of Ocean City prepares for the 4th of July holiday and the peak summer season, state and local partners joined together to remind visitors and residents to: Walk Smart, Bike Smart and Drive Smart.

On Tuesday morning, Maryland Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Dennis Schrader joined Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, Ocean City Police Captain Kevin Kirstein and SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer in front of the newly installed pedestrian crosswalk on 101st Street to reiterate the message of the Walk Smart Campaign.

“I am excited to kick off the 2015 Ocean City Walk Smart Campaign,” Drewer said. “We are looking forward to another successful summer here in Ocean City. We are here in Ocean City and communities throughout the State because we know that one traffic fatality is one to many.”

The ongoing effort behind the Walk Smart Campaign combines engineering, education and enforcement to save lives and prevent injuries along Coastal Highway and other Ocean City roadways.

After a tragic 2012 season that ended with two pedestrian crash fatalities and a dramatic increase in pedestrian injuries, the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) reported no pedestrian related fatalities for the next two seasons after the successful 2013 Ocean City Walk Smart Campaign launch. With the 2014 season showing a slight increase in pedestrian-related crash injuries and more than 30 bicycle incidents, the Walk Smart Campaign continues to expand pedestrian and bicycle safety messaging.

Pedestrians are urged to use crosswalks and wait for “walk” signals, while bicyclists are reminded to ride in the direction of traffic, avoid distractions and follow all traffic signs and signals.  Drivers should stop for pedestrians, watch for bicyclists and share the road.

“Before the summer season, SHA has been working very closely with Ocean City’s taskforce on a number of improvements throughout town focusing on bicycle and pedestrian safety,” Drewer said.

In addition to promoting safety messages, SHA continues to add engineering enhancements including: the new mid-block crosswalk and signal at 101st Street, median lighting at 49th Street and curb bump outs at each intersection of Baltimore Ave. between 9th and 15th streets.

SHA installed “wrong way” bike signs at 45 locations and installed new crosswalks at two intersections: Coastal Highway and South Division St., and Routes 50 and 611 in West Ocean City. In total, more than $1.5 million has been invested in education efforts and engineering improvements along Coastal Highway and other state-owned roadways in Ocean City.

“Engineers constantly monitor and evaluate the roadway system by retiming signals, enhancing turning movements at intersections, placing ‘no pedestrian crossing’ curb stencils and installing signs in key areas along Coastal Highway to direct pedestrians to safe crossings,” Drewer said.  “We are dedicated to improving engineering efforts in partnership with the Town of Ocean City.”

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out there are up to eight lanes of traffic on Coastal Highway with a significant increase in cars, pedestrians and bicyclists during the summer months. The Town of Ocean City has one of Maryland’s largest populations during the summer with a changing population each week.

“Here we are in 2015 kicking this off just in time as we enter the busiest part of the summer,” Mayor Meehan said. “In Ocean City, each week we have 200,000 new people coming into town, so we have to continue to repeat our message to make sure that everybody is aware of the Walk Smart Campaign … There has been a lot of meetings since last year, and significant changes in our programs. We are continuing to see pedestrian incidents decrease and we want to continue that … Safety is the number one priority in Ocean City. We want everyone to arrive safely, be safe while they’re here, and return home safely.”

Maryland Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Dennis Schrader recognized the grass roots effort of enhancing pedestrian safety in Ocean City has begun to influence changes throughout the state.

“The bottom line is our efforts are working, and since the launch of the Ocean City Walk Smart Campaign in 2013 there have been no pedestrian fatalities in the Town of Ocean City, which is terrific. We have to stay vigilant and focused on our efforts. We are going to continue to make progress,” Schrader said. “Gov. [Larry] Hogan is concerned over getting to Ocean City a lot safer. He just announced $2 million in highway funding, and that included $160 million to widen MD 404 in Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Caroline counties to go from a two-lane to a four-lane divided highway. He also delivered Worcester County’s number one transportation priority by investing $65 million to widen US 113 to a four-lane divided highway. This way motorist will not only be safe going to and from Ocean City but with the Walk Smart Campaign they will be safer while they’re here enjoying their vacation.”

OCPD Captain Kevin Kirstein announced after an initial uptick in pedestrian-related crash injuries that number has fallen this season.

“I can tell you so far this summer we are down 60 percent in our pedestrian crashes and we are extremely excited about that. That means 60 percent less times that we have to make those horrible phone calls to a loved one saying there has been a tragedy,” Kirstein said. “The statistics are something that we should be very proud of, and we hope if you have an encounter with a police officer you take from that the officer was looking out for your safety, and trying to make sure the memory you have of your Ocean City vacation is a great one, a positive one and not of tragedy. Walk smart, bike smart, and drive smart while enjoying your time in Ocean City, MD.”

At the conclusion of the get together, OC Walk Smart partners unveiled the campaign’s mascot, “Crab the Lifeguard”, who will engage the community and remind pedestrians to use crosswalks and wait for signals. Drivers also must stay alert, stop for pedestrians and travel the posted speed limit.  Bicyclists need to ride with traffic and obey stop signs and red lights.

 

‘Independent Judicial Review’ Sought On OC Tax Petition

OCEAN CITY – With the full support of Mayor Rick Meehan, the City Council voted this week to seek an independent opinion regarding the legal implications of a successful petition to reduce the property tax rate to the 2009 rate.

Last month the Ocean City taxpayers for Social Justice (OCTSJ) submitted a petition to lower Ocean City’s tax rate to the 2009 rate of 38 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The same day the Mayor and City Council approved the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget that raise the tax rate 2 percent to 47.8 cents.

A couple of weeks ago, Board of Elections Chair Mary Adeline Bradford verified 1,787 petition signatures were submitted. Out of those signatures, 310 were excused, leaving 1,477 valid signatures, which exceeded the required 1,228 signatures needed to require the town conduct a referendum within 90 days or at the next scheduled election, which is in November of 2016.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres warned the council there is potential litigation surrounding the issue.

“In my opinion, the substance of the petition violates Section 6-303 of the Tax Property Article of the Maryland Code Annotated. The substance of the petition would amend the charter, so your ability to tax would be capped at the 2009 level of taxes, and that is known as a ‘tax rollback.’ In the case of Board of Election Supervisors vs. Smallwood … the court had ruled tax rollbacks are not proper charter material and violate Section 6-303,” Ayres said at that time.

The council met in closed session to discuss the petition prior to Tuesday afternoon’s work session.

“The council voted unanimously to file petition for declaratory relief with the Circuit Court for independent judicial review because the proposed charter amendment to reduce the property tax rate constitutes an unlawful rollback in violation with State law,” Council President Lloyd Martin said.

Tony Christ of OCTSJ, who led the petition drive, stated he is saddened that the council voted unanimously to oppose the people’s will, to which Meehan responded is a misinterpretation of the facts.

“The decision by the council to seek an independent opinion to determine whether or not the proposed charter amendment is lawful was a good decision. It is seeking a second opinion, an independent opinion. Not just the opinion of a select few who in my opinion have been inconsistent with their facts and continue to try to stand up here, misinterpret the facts and scare the voters and residents of Ocean City,” the mayor said.

According to Meehan, in Fiscal Year 2009 when the property tax rate was 38 cents the assessable base of the Town of Ocean City was just over $12 billion. The revenue derived from the property tax rate was about $45.3 million. The General Fund Budget was almost $80.5 million, and property taxes were 56.29 percent of the revenue in that budget year.

Today, in Fiscal Year 2016, the assessable base is about $8.4 billion, which is $4 billion less than in 2009, and the property tax rate is set at 47.8 cents. The revenue derived from the property tax rate is about $40.2 million, which is $5 million less than in 2009. The General Fund Budget is about $79.7 million, and the amount of revenue derived from property taxes is 50.44 percent of the total revenue, which is a reduction of almost 6 percent.

“The figures that are being expounded to the public are very deceiving when you look at the actual numbers, and you look at where we stand from a budget stand point,” the mayor said. “We have been criticized for utilizing constant yield. Well constant yield is not a mandate. It is a mechanism to show government what the tax rate would be to collect the same amount of tax revenue as received in the previous year.”

A tax rollback would be an arbitrary move, the mayor stated.

“The budget process is a six-month process where we sat here going over the budget making the determination of how to fund the level of services the entire city and all of our taxpayers expect and deserve. This council accepted that responsibility when they were elected, and they passed a budget that accomplished their goals while still held to the constant yield tax rate. They should be commended,” the mayor said.

As far as a random decision resulting in a negative impact, the mayor used the Worcester County Commissioners as an example who instituted a large tax increase this year rather than addressing reduced revenues in last year’s budget.

“How did that work out? Today they are back before the residents of Worcester County passing a budget that raises the tax rate 6.5 cents that doesn’t fully fund all the things they want them to fund,” Meehan said.

The mayor concluded today the Town of Ocean City’s Fund Balance stands at 15 percent, the highest it has ever been.

“There haven’t been any arbitrary decisions made up here. To every action there is a reaction, and when you make an arbitrary decision it may feel good at the time but you will pay for it later,” he said. “I commend the council for having the fortitude and courage for doing the right thing, to go through the budget process, to do exactly what those who have circulated the petition want them to do, and that is to look at every expenditure and every source of revenue and how the budget the needs of this community. That is what they have done and I support their decisions.”

Immediately following the work session, Christ, who left council chambers once the mayor started speaking, submitted a response to The Dispatch.

“My concern is that in America we are replacing the Rule of Law with the Rule of Lawyers. The council has authorized spending money to hire lawyers to kill the petition in court. We believe that it is very important for us to defend our right to petition our grievances that seeks to have a public vote on taxes. They show their utter disregard for the wishes of close to 1,500 voters and countless thousands of property owners in Ocean City. We will do our best to defend our right to petition our grievances for a public vote on taxes,” Christ stated. “We feel it is a right granted by the Bill of Rights and as such is not subject to restriction by state law.”

 

Council To Weigh Latest Pay Study Recommendations

OCEAN CITY – A Pay and Classification Study for Town of Ocean City employees recommended bringing about a quarter of the full-time work force up to the market minimum.

On Tuesday afternoon, Management Advisory Group, Inc. (MAG) President Don Long came before the Mayor and City Council to present the results of a citywide Pay and Classification Study, which was deemed a high priority on the town’s 2014 Strategic Plan’s Policy Agenda.

“It has been seven years or so since the last pay classification study for the Town of Ocean City employees where we benchmark our pay and compensation against the market, and review internal parities as well,” City Manager David Recor said.

The study is a result of conducting employee orientation sessions; administering and reviewing job analysis questionnaires; conducting department head and employee interviews; conducting job analysis of included town classifications; gathering salary and compensation data from competitor organizations; developing a revised compensation and pay plan; recommending changes to support an internally equitable plan; and reviewing departmental requests and making selected adjustments.

The study compared Ocean City’s general employees to 24 other city, town, county, state and facility employees, including Anne Arundel County, City of Annapolis, City of Virginia Beach, Maryland State Police, Rehoboth Beach and Wicomico County.

As a result of MAG’s custom market survey for general employees, at the market minimum the Town of Ocean City led the market by 1.19 percent, at the market midpoint the town led the market by 5.54 percent and at the market maximum the town led the market by 5.70 percent.

“In terms of the overall averages, these numbers show for general titles the city is in a good competitive position,” Long said. “If you’re within 5 percent or so in a survey like this, we can conclude that you have been competitive and there is not much change that is absolutely necessary.”

The study compared Ocean City’s executive titles to 19 other city, town, county, state and facility employees, including City of Baltimore, City of Richmond, City of Salisbury, Kent County and the State of Maryland.

The town lagged the market by 5.89 percent at the market midpoint, the Town lagged the market by 3.08 percent and at the market maximum the town lagged the market by 1.29 percent.

However, the market average range width was 55 percent for general employees and 60 percent for executive employees. Ocean City’s average range width is 70 percent to 83 percent. MAG recommended setting the salary ranges for the Unified Pay Plan to 60 percent.

“Today our general employee population for the most part is in an open range system. There is a minimum of the pay range and a maximum of the pay range, and increases granted within that range are done on a formula basis as a ratio of where the employee stands against their midpoint,” Human Resources Director Wayne Evans said. “For example, if someone is at the low end of the pay range and increment increases are granted, that person would receive a higher percentage of increase compared to someone who is at the top of their pay range.”

MAG recommended adopting a new structure and ranges to bring all employees to the minimum of their proposed range with an implementation target date of Jan. 1, 2016.

Of the 398 employees in the Unified Plan, 54 employees are below the proposed market minimums. This annual cost is approximately $115,165. A 2-percent adjustment already budgeted for Jan. 1 decreases the incremental cost to approximately $84,470 annually. Twenty-three employees are not recommended for any adjustment because their current salary exceeds the maximum of the proposed range.

“That is probably the lowest implementation cost I have seen in 20 years, which means you are being very competitive on most of your ranges … you are in good condition,” Long said.

According to Evans, part-time and temporary pay rates were last adjusted in 2011 when a lower starting rate was added to the existing three-step pay table. The rest of the existing pay table remained unchanged and there were no step increases for the temporary and part-time employees. Returning temporary seasonal and part-time employees were placed in the step table at the same rate they were in the previous season.

“Adjustments for full-time positions, as proposed by MAG, will impact temporary starting pay where equivalent positions exist,” Evans stated.

Adjustments for those temporary/part-time position start rates will result in an incremental increase of approximately $16,379 above the budgeted 2 percent.

In total, the additional cost in Fiscal Year 2106 would be an incremental increase of $27,554 above the budgeted 2 percent.

The council will thoroughly review the study prior to making a decision on the policy change.

 

Salisbury Bike Route Work Continues

SALISBURY – The city continued efforts this week to complete the Salisbury Bike Route effort by approving the Fitzwater Street portion on first reading.

Before the City Council for consideration on Monday evening was a proposed ordinance establishing a bike route to extend the developing city bike route system from the downtown area to the west side of the city.

The bike route will run along West Main Street from Mill Street to the intersection of Fitzwater Street and along Fitzwater Street to the intersection with Parsons Road and along Parsons Road to the intersection of Pemberton Drive.

The route will provide dedicated bicycle-only lanes and shared bicycle and motorized vehicle lanes as directed by Maryland Manual Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MDMUTCD) Traffic Control for Bicycle Facilities as well as installing lane striping for dedicated lanes, installing shared lane markings for shared lanes, installing bicycle markings on-pavement, and installing bike route signage along the route.

The ordinance before the council for approval stated, “The City of Salisbury desires to encourage cycling throughout the City…the curb-to-curb street width on affected streets shall be unchanged by the proposed bicycle route, and the Director of Public Works has determined that the impact of the proposed bicycle route on vehicular traffic flow will be minimal.”

Public Works Director Mike Moulds reminded the council the city is seeking funding in Fiscal Year 2016 from the Maryland Department of Transportation for design of the bike route.

Moulds furthered other infrastructure projects either occurring or planned in the near future provide an opportunity for the bike routes to be installed.

“The big projects we have coming up is the Fitzwater Pump Station at the marina in the fall with a force main replacement that goes to the Northside Pump Station that is under construction now. In addition there is also gravity sewer upgrades that we’re presently in design that would extend to Fitzwater Street, so with those projects the road will have some construction activity but with the repaving and restoration of that there is an opportunity there to integrate the bike lanes,” he said.

The council voted 3-0 to approve the ordinance on first reading with Council President Jake Day and Councilwoman Shanie Shields absent.

The proposed Fitzwater Street bike route is another piece to the ongoing city-wide effort. The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the city have been working together to improve bicycle connectivity between the Downtown Central Business District and Salisbury University titled the Salisbury Bike Route – Wayfinding and Safety Enhancements Project.

The project includes installation of bicycle pavement markings for the three bicycle routes, the installation of three bicycle racks at the Downtown Plaza, Salisbury Zoological Park and Salisbury Park and construction and installation of four information kiosks in the Downtown, Peninsula Regional Medical Center, Salisbury University and Salisbury Park.

 

 

Planning Comm. Endorses New District Where Weekly Rentals Would Be Banned; Council To Have Ultimate Say

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OCEAN CITY – The Planning and Zoning Commission forwarded a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to establish a R-1A Single Family Residential District that would provide an outlet for neighborhoods to ban short term rentals.

On Tuesday evening, the commission held a public hearing to consider amending the zoning code to create an R-1A Single Family Residential District.

The proposed amendment states, “The purpose of this district is to provide for established year round residents to maintain the integrity of family values, youth values, and the blessings of quiet seclusion and to make the area a sanctuary for people living in the neighborhood and to avoid the adverse effects of transient short term rentals. This district is for single-family residential development, together with accessory uses as may be necessary or are normally compatible with residential surroundings.”

The permitted use in an R-1A district would be a residence used for a year-round, or 12-month minimum, rental. Short-term rentals, for example the common weekly vacation rentals, would be prohibited. If an R-1A district is added to the code, a neighborhood can apply to rezone and a public hearing would be held before the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider the request. The commission would then forward a favorable or non-favorable recommendation to the council for the final decision.

At the end of last summer, Ocean City experienced a growing number of rental concerns and complaints, primarily from the neighborhood of Mallard Island. There were a couple of public hearings held before the commission to consider a potential amendment to the code regarding the R-1 Single Family Residential District and MH Mobile Home Residential District for the purpose of regulating short-term and long-term rentals.

Although there was no official action made to city laws, the Property Review and Enforcement Strategies for Safe-housing (PRESS) Committee in early May held a meeting to educate landlords, tenants, Realtors and property owners on the town’s rental regulations and enforcement in hopes to start off this summer season on a better foot.

On the same day, Mallard Island submitted a petition signed by close to 80 percent of the neighborhood’s property owners in favor of the community being rezoned as an R-1A Single Family Residential District. Currently, Mallard Island is zoned as an R-1 Single-Family Residential District.

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.

 

Residents Want To Protect Neighborhoods

At Tuesday’s public hearing, a number of residents of Mallard Island, located on 15th Street bayside, were present.

“Passing the amendment will allow the property owners, if they desire, to petition the Ocean City Council for rezoning of their community … it provides for fair opportunity for property owners to be heard without misleading information from outside parties who are not voters, residents or property owners in Ocean City,” Mallard Island resident Ed Smith said. “If the education and enforcement program works, the property owners won’t feel a need to petition for a rezone.

Mallard Island resident John Wright, who purchased his home 16 years ago, chose the community based on former covenants restricting short-term rentals in the neighborhood. However, those covenants have expired and were never renewed.

“In the past four to five years, however, there have been a number of properties for rent in our neighborhood. As a result of these rental units, we have seen an increase in noise, public drinking, profanity, disturbances and trash in our street,” Wright said. “Short-term rental properties in residential communities undeniably detract from the tranquility state and the qualities of the neighborhood. The vast majority of Ocean City housing already consists of rental units that serve the needs of Ocean City vacationers. There is absolutely no need to turn our established tranquil communities into something that they were never intended to be.”

Wright furthered an R-1A district would allow for property owners to determine the fate of their own neighborhood by allowing or restricting short term rentals.

“I strongly believe some things are more important than money, and one of those things is maintaining the sanctity of the neighborhood in which you live,” he said.

It is in Mallard Island resident Frank Knight’s opinion that a small number of rentals would ultimately be affected by the new district

“To answer real estate agents that not only don’t have a community interest but only a financial interest in this change, there will not be a major negative impact on the real estate market. There will still be 20,000-plus choices for our lodging visitors, investors looking to buy rental units will still have hundreds to choose from, buyers seeking a non-transient safe neighborhood will be able to buy in an R-1A zone, and property values and the tax base will increase,” Knight said. “It is undisputed that property values and the tax base decrease if short-term transient rental units invest in traditional R-1 neighborhoods.”

Knight furthered it is impossible to regulate short-term rentals.

“Large groups in vacation party mode are in and out of rental units within three to seven days. No evictions can occur in that time frame and everyone knows it. So we the taxpaying, voting residents are left to anticipate what next Friday or Saturday will bring,” he said. “Instituting the R-1A zone will negate most enforcement issues. A community with year-round residents will exist, owners and renters, all with the best interest of their neighborhood.”

 

Area Realtors Call Proposed Ban ‘Premature’

The Coastal Association of REALTORS (CAR) came to the hearing with a large force in opposition to the proposed R-1A district. Many held up posters and wore stickers stating, “Private Property Rights Matter.”

Representing CAR was Board member Joe Wilson, a realtor for Condominium Realty LTD who serves as chairman of CAR’s Political Action Committee and the owner of a rental property in Ocean City.

“Over the off-season, the town, as well as the PRESS Committee, did an excellent job reaching out to rental-property owners and their representatives to address concerns of neighbors. The results of their efforts have yet to be measured as we have just begun our summer season. The proposal of a ban on short-term rentals is premature. Property owners and rental agencies have implemented new systems and procedures. The proposal of an R-1A district undermines all of their hard work,” Wilson said.

Although CAR sympathizes with Mallard Island, Wilson pointed out the town has regulations to reprimand landlords and tenants when violations occur and enforcement and monitoring the number of rental housing complaints this summer will measure the effectiveness of these actions.

“This hearing is not about a single community, it is about protecting private property rights in Ocean City, Maryland. Adoption of the R-1A district could open the door for future requests. Who is to say that the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Mayor and City Council will not honor a request from an R-2 or R-3 district to be rezoned, thereby effectively banning short-term rentals?,” Wilson said. “This is not keeping our resort town attractive for rentals and investment opportunity. Limiting rentals to a 12-month minimum will have far reaching economic impacts.”

If the supply of rental properties is decreased, the cost of rentals will increase, causing vacationers to spend less money at the local businesses, Wilson asserted. That will also affect the average length of stay, which has already decreased for the most part, cut into demands for off-peak periods and higher costs may encourage some tourists to vacation in larger groups to share the rental expense or require families to rent smaller accommodations then preferred.

“This legislation is unfair to the many owners who purchased their properties on the premise they could rent for vacation purposes. It will adversely affect those who currently hold rental licenses. There may also be owners who intended to use their property as a vacation rental in the future, to serve as a source of income for retirement or to fund a child’s education,” he said. “The vast majority of properties in Ocean City cannot produce nearly as much income when rented out on a year-round basis compared to weekly in-season rentals. The loss of rental income could cause significant economic distress to rental property owners, including foreclosure.”

Wilson argued because the proposed R-1A regulations are substantially the same as those of the existing R-1 district, except for the treatment of short-term rentals, the targeted treatment of short term rentals may give rise to claims that the R-1A ordinance violates the owner’s constitutional right to equal protection upon basis the zoning ordinance would treat single family homes in single family residential districts differently depending upon whether they are zoned R-1 or R-1A.

“Many investors strictly use the income approach to value when evaluating a real estate investment. Many buyers in our area require rental income in order to qualify for their purchase mortgage,” he said. “In a time when economic opportunity is so sparse, the last thing we need is to regulate owners out of the investments they’ve created for themselves.”

 

Officials Vote 5-2 To Support Change

Once the public hearing was closed, the commission was torn on whether to deliberate and cast a vote that evening.

“The residents are asking us to put a tool in the toolbox, and that would be the proposed R-1A district,” commission member Palmer Gillis said. “What we are proposing this evening does not impact one piece of property. It does not impact one neighborhood. It is only giving those neighborhoods that collectively come to a mutual decision to place that restriction on themselves. I am in support of suggesting to the Mayor and City Council that they move forward with this initiative …”

According to commission member Lauren Taylor, Ocean City’s residential population has declined while other parts of Worcester County and areas of Delaware are increasing.

“Part of what we are supposed to do is protect property rights, protect neighborhoods, protect people’s freedoms and enjoyment of life,” Taylor said. “I don’t see why this should not be available. Let’s take Mallard Island for example where there are two different types of properties. Whose property rights are more important? There are way more owners than there are renters, so if you are going to look out for property rights, look out for the majority. Why would you allow a very small number of people destroy the character of a neighborhood? This isn’t being imposed on anyone. It is an option if people in a neighborhood want for themselves they can choose it, and I don’t know why we would stand in their way.”

The commission voted 5-2 to forward a favorable recommendation with members John Staley and Chris Shanahan in opposition due to wanting more time to decide.

“The one thing that I would like you all to take from this public hearing that we are here for the entire Town of Ocean City and we have taken the pledge to uphold the safety and welfare of this community, and we all take that seriously,” Chair Pam Buckley said. “The one thing that is certainly true is that it should not just be single-family neighborhoods that have to deal with lousy vacationers … safety to me is the biggest issue.”

 

Prior To Dazzling Ocean City In The Air, Blue Angels Team Members Make Lifetime Memories For Visiting Families

During some down time last Friday morning, two members of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels stopped by the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House by the Sea to spend time with families staying in the facility. Photos by Joanne Shriner

OCEAN CITY – The 8th Annual Ocean City Air Show was headlined by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels this past weekend but prior to kicking off their official performance team members took some time out to visit families staying at the Believe In Tomorrow Children’s House by the Sea on Friday morning.

For Administrative Officer LTJG Phil Harper and AE2 Ben Thayer, this was their first time visiting Ocean City as well as working with the Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation.

“Within our flight schedule pretty much every Friday we have the opportunity to go out, visit the local schools and have opportunities like this. This is overwhelmingly positive,” Thayer said of Believe In Tomorrow. “I am very happy to be here. It really moves the heart. It is a great program.”

Since arriving in Ocean City a couple of days earlier, Thayer said the community had been very welcoming.

“It has been a great experience,” AE2 Thayer said of Ocean City. “Beautiful beaches, the community has been kind to us, we have been able to sample the local cuisine and the seafood is great. I come from Florida, so I know what good seafood tastes like.”

Harper was happy to be at the Believe In Tomorrow Children’s House by the Sea to witness the smiles on the kids’ faces.

“[Believe In Tomorrow] is pretty incredible. We are going to spread the word and come back in the future. The message is in the organization itself, Believe In Tomorrow. For me, I grew up in a rough neighborhood and all you could do is believe in tomorrow, so hopefully by seeing myself and Petty Officer Thayer here they can know there is a tomorrow to believe in,” Harper said. “This is overwhelming and very positive for me. The families are happy to see us and we are happy to be here. This is one of those events that fell in our lap, and I am glad it did.”

Being stationed in Pensacola, Fla., and Virginia Beach, Harper felt right at home in Ocean City.

“It’s awesome so far,” he said. “I haven’t really had a chance to get around but hopefully that will change tomorrow after the Air Show.”

The families staying at the Believe In Tomorrow Children’s House by the Sea were able to catch a glimpse of the Blue Angels practicing on Thursday over the beach prior to meeting the team members on Friday morning.

Watching the Blue Angels practice the day prior was able to make the kids appreciate the meet and greet even more, said Jaime Reid, whose daughter Catherine has been diagnosed with Leukemia.

“This is great. Everything about being here has been a treat,” Reid said. “It is special to be here, and a cool opportunity for us to get away and for her

“This is overwhelming and very positive for me. The families are happy to see us and we are happy to be here. This is one of those events that fell in our lap, and I am glad it did,” said Administrative Officer LTJG Phil Harper, right.

“This is overwhelming and very positive for me. The families are happy to see us and we are happy to be here. This is one of those events that fell in our lap, and I am glad it did,” said Administrative Officer LTJG Phil Harper, right.

[Catherine] to just be care free. It is just such a financial burden … but here so much is provided for us and we wouldn’t be able to do this without Believe In Tomorrow.”

Cameron Miller, who is in remission from Leukemia, has been looking forward to meeting the Blue Angels all week.

“He really wants to be in the Army when he grows up,” Cameron’s mom Stephanie Day said. “We were on the beach while they were practicing, and every time one would come over he would stop what he was doing and look up. This is amazing. It has given Cameron a chance to be open and happy, away from treatment and hospitals. Just to see a smile on his face every day has been really rewarding.”

The experience all together has been very supportive, Holly Murga said, whose daughter Gabby has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

“It is a great experience,” she said. “All of the families understand what everybody is going through, and we are here to help everyone out. Whenever you need something there is someone there to help out”.

Liz Ferm, mother to Alex who has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s T-Cell Lymphoma, called it a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I don’t think they realize how lucky they are. When they grow up and look at those pictures they will be like ‘wow, that’s pretty cool’,” Ferm said. “It is unbelievable experience. When your child has a critical illness your job becomes taking care of them and living in a hospital. You don’t really get to vacation or have any fun but here the kids are just able to relax and you can let kids be kids with other kids that are going through the same thing with their families.”

Patty Ali, whose daughter Victoria is in remission from a brain tumor, said her family has also been looking forward to the meet and greet all week as her husband served in the Navy.

“It is much needed rest and fun,” Ali said. “This is the first time Victoria has been able to participate in the fun, things like surfing. It has been a very emotional experience for me because she has been on the sidelines for years watching the other kids play, so it is great to see her be able to participate.”

Believe In Tomorrow expanded the beach respite program in 2000 by opening the five-unit, oceanfront Believe In Tomorrow House By The Sea on 66th Street.

For more than 30 years, Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation has been a leader in pediatric hospital and respite housing services for critically ill children and their families providing over half a million individual overnight accommodations to these children and families, from every state in the U.S. and 76 countries worldwide. For more information visit www.believeintomorrow.org.

 

 

 

 

OC Council Gives Final Approval To Street Performer Changes

OC Council

OCEAN CITY – Boardwalk business owners turned out this week to praise the Mayor and City Council for the new street performer regulations taking effect next month.

The Town of Ocean City has been struggling with the proliferation of street performers on the Boardwalk for several years. A Boardwalk Task Force was created to specifically look into the growing concerns. After two public hearings over the winter, the task force’s recommendations were submitted to the Mayor and City Council and presented in an ordinance form.

On Monday evening, the ordinance came before the council for its second and final reading. The ordinance regulates street performers on the Boardwalk and will force buskers to sign up for designated locations from the Inlet to 9th Street.

The ordinance states, “The Town Clerk shall designate spaces on the Boardwalk between and including South 1st Street and 9th Street … will be available on a first-come, first-serve allocation and selection system for two periods of use; the first period shall be Monday through Thursday and the second period shall be Friday through Sunday … the Designated Spaces will be available for selection twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays one week in advance …”

Each designated space from the Inlet to 9th Street will be a maximum of 10 feet by 10 feet and a minimum of five feet by five feet, and a three-foot clear area around each fire hydrant must be maintained as well as a safe separation from the Boardwalk tram lane.

A list of rules and regulations governing performers and vendors on the entire Boardwalk from the Inlet to 27th Street is also included in the ordinance, such as a performer or vendor may mark the boundary of a space with a rope laid on the surface of the Boardwalk; no performer or vendor can have any item exceeding four feet above ground, allow any street end of designated space to be enclosed, or affix props or equipment to the Boardwalk surface; no performer or vendor occupying a location at a street end or designated space can leave items unattended for a period longer than 15 consecutive minutes; and a performer or vendor having selected a designated space or on street ends between 10th and 27th streets will have use of that area from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. during the week, and from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends.

During first reading a couple of weeks ago, Boardwalk performers asked for a few changes prior to the law’s final passage.

Painter/caricature artist Michael Moeller stated the limitation of equipment not to exceed four feet is unrealistic pointing out the height of an easel can exceed four feet.

Musician Alex Young asked the council on multiple occasions to consider extending the time restraint of playing music into the night.

This week City Solicitor Guy Ayres presented the ordinance in second reading reflecting changes addressing those concerns. The changes are increasing the height of props from four feet to five feet, performer or vendor having selected a designated space or on street ends between 10th and 27th streets will have use of that area from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. both during the week and on weekends, and the time period for designated spaces from the Inlet to 9th St. to be allocated is from May 1 to Sept. 30.

“It is important for people to understand that we have listened to all public comments not only during the public hearings before the Task Force but also before the council,” Councilman Wayne Hartman said.

Prior to the council casting its vote, many Boardwalk business owners came before them to give thanks.

Bruce Krasner, who owns several businesses on the Boardwalk, applauded the council and the members of the task force.

“I think you have created an environment that we all can live with. Given time it will run its due course and it will work out in the end. I was a strong opponent of not having any buskers at all, but coming to the realization that we can live together and work together I think this ordinance does that very well,” Krasner said.

Vikki Barrett of An Inn on the Ocean and the Ocean City Development Committee Boardwalk Committee was in favor of the ordinance being passed.

“I represent the merchants on the Boardwalk and their concerns about the balance of making money and paying as many expenses as they do in this city … and the buskers do none of that,” she said. “It has been difficult for the merchants to keep up with their expenses when some of the buskers are taking income from them. I think with the excellent job the task force did in working with the buskers I think they have come up with a very strong ordinance that is fair to everyone.”

Todd Ferrante of Park Place Jewelers applauded the vetting process.

“It was difficult process to go through but everybody did an outstanding job. This is something that is fair and equitable to all who are involved, and that is the key here,” he said.

OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin added “I too want to applaud the council and the Boardwalk Task Force. I do believe the buskers play a role in Ocean City’s Boardwalk. In the past couple of years, it had become different from before but I think the ordinance addresses many of those issues with the rotation to how many performers can be in one location … I know there will be some tweaking needed as time goes on but it is a good middle ground.”

Boardwalk Task Force member Bob Rothermel added, “It [Boardwalk] was the wild west out there on the most eastern walkway in Maryland. This is an attempt to provide balance. We can sit here and try to pick it apart but that is not what we need to do. We need to pass something that everybody can live by, and I encourage you to do that.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance, which goes into effect July 27.

 

 

Last Weekend’s Air Show Called Best Yet For Ocean City

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are pictured last Sunday. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – The 2015 Ocean City Air Show was described this week as the best yet for the Town of Ocean City.

For the first time in Ocean City, the 8th Annual OC Air Show was headlined by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels on Saturday and Sunday.

“This weekend the OC Air Show was by far the best, most successful and largest to date. One performer called it ‘epic’. I wanted to come here tonight and say thank you,” OC Air Show President Bryan Lilley said before the Mayor and City Council on Monday evening.

Lilley presented the city with a lithograph on behalf of the OC Air Show and U.S. Navy Blue Angels as an expression of thanks.

“This event has matured as you have matured as the promoter of this event in maximizing the efforts today,” Mayor Rick Meehan said to Lilley. “Everything went like clockwork. The crowds were huge. People were smiling, and enjoying it. It was fabulous. Having the Blue Angels this year following the Thunderbirds last year is tremendous. I don’t know how it can get any better but we are looking forward to many years to come.”

If the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Saturday wasn’t a telltale sign, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones confirmed their hotel membership was booked for Saturday night with a handful of vacancies left on Friday.

“There were a lot of sold out properties. It was a fantastic solid weekend for business,” Jones said.

Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel agreed it was the most successful OC Air Show yet.

“By all accounts, it was a tremendous event. The show was outstanding, and went off without a hitch. It was great beach weather, and the beach was completely packed,” Pursel said. “It was a really great weekend; a strong weekend.”

The Kite Loft on the Boardwalk sold out of all the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flags they had in stock for the event, according to owner Jay Knerr.

“This was definitely the best one. I have witnessed them all, and not only from a spectator’s point of view was it the best air show to date, but by the amount of people it drew was far superior to any other air show in previous years,” said Knerr. “The Blue Angels are a huge draw, so it was great to see them here.”

As far as business goes, numbers were strong, Knerr furthered.

“The Boardwalk was mob city, you couldn’t even move out there, and the beach was packed. Weather wise it was a glorious weekend,” he said. “We did real well based on the amount of people in town … It was a very, very good weekend for us.”

Last weekend the OC Air Show was lined up with three major acts, including the first-time performance in Ocean City of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the Breitling Jet Team as first international performer to fly at the event and the most advanced fighter in the world, the F-22 Raptor.

The 2015 event commemorated the 70th anniversary of VE-Day and the end of World War II in Europe with a B-25 Bomber tribute flight and a demo of the P-51 Mustang, the super fighter of its time.

Performances also included the National Anthem – Flag Jump; Mike Wiskus in the Lucas Oil Pitts; L-39 Cold War Era Jet Demo;  John Klatt; Lucas Oil Jump Team;  USAF Heritage FlightUSCG Search and Rescue Demo; and Fat Albert, the supply plane for the Angels.

Next year’s OC Air Show will take place June 11-12, 2016.

To see more photos from Chris Parypa Photography of the event, click to www.facebook.com/thedispatchoc

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning Comm. Endorses New District Where Weekly Rentals Would Be Banned; Council To Have Ultimate Say

Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – The Planning and Zoning Commission forwarded a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to establish a R-1A Single Family Residential District that would provide an outlet for neighborhoods to ban short term rentals.

On Tuesday evening, the commission held a public hearing to consider amending the zoning code to create an R-1A Single Family Residential District.

The proposed amendment states, “The purpose of this district is to provide for established year round residents to maintain the integrity of family values, youth values, and the blessings of quiet seclusion and to make the area a sanctuary for people living in the neighborhood and to avoid the adverse effects of transient short term rentals. This district is for single-family residential development, together with accessory uses as may be necessary or are normally compatible with residential surroundings.”

The permitted use in an R-1A district would be a residence used for a year-round, or 12-month minimum, rental. Short-term rentals, for example the common weekly vacation rentals, would be prohibited. If an R-1A district is added to the code, a neighborhood can apply to rezone and a public hearing would be held before the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider the request. The commission would then forward a favorable or non-favorable recommendation to the council for the final decision.

At the end of last summer, Ocean City experienced a growing number of rental concerns and complaints, primarily from the neighborhood of Mallard Island. There were a couple of public hearings held before the commission to consider a potential amendment to the code regarding the R-1 Single Family Residential District and MH Mobile Home Residential District for the purpose of regulating short-term and long-term rentals.

Although there was no official action made to city laws, the Property Review and Enforcement Strategies for Safe-housing (PRESS) Committee in early May held a meeting to educate landlords, tenants, Realtors and property owners on the town’s rental regulations and enforcement in hopes to start off this summer season on a better foot.

On the same day, Mallard Island submitted a petition signed by close to 80 percent of the neighborhood’s property owners in favor of the community being rezoned as an R-1A Single Family Residential District. Currently, Mallard Island is zoned as an R-1 Single-Family Residential District.

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.

Residents Want To Protect Neighborhoods

At Tuesday’s public hearing, a number of residents of Mallard Island, located on 15th Street bayside, were present.

“Passing the amendment will allow the property owners, if they desire, to petition the Ocean City Council for rezoning of their community … it provides for fair opportunity for property owners to be heard without misleading information from outside parties who are not voters, residents or property owners in Ocean City,” Mallard Island resident Ed Smith said. “If the education and enforcement program works, the property owners won’t feel a need to petition for a rezone.

Mallard Island resident John Wright, who purchased his home 16 years ago, chose the community based on former covenants restricting short-term rentals in the neighborhood. However, those covenants have expired and were never renewed.

“In the past four to five years, however, there have been a number of properties for rent in our neighborhood. As a result of these rental units, we have seen an increase in noise, public drinking, profanity, disturbances and trash in our street,” Wright said. “Short-term rental properties in residential communities undeniably detract from the tranquility state and the qualities of the neighborhood. The vast majority of Ocean City housing already consists of rental units that serve the needs of Ocean City vacationers. There is absolutely no need to turn our established tranquil communities into something that they were never intended to be.”

Wright furthered an R-1A district would allow for property owners to determine the fate of their own neighborhood by allowing or restricting short term rentals.

“I strongly believe some things are more important than money, and one of those things is maintaining the sanctity of the neighborhood in which you live,” he said.

It is in Mallard Island resident Frank Knight’s opinion that a small number of rentals would ultimately be affected by the new district

“To answer real estate agents that not only don’t have a community interest but only a financial interest in this change, there will not be a major negative impact on the real estate market. There will still be 20,000-plus choices for our lodging visitors, investors looking to buy rental units will still have hundreds to choose from, buyers seeking a non-transient safe neighborhood will be able to buy in an R-1A zone, and property values and the tax base will increase,” Knight said. “It is undisputed that property values and the tax base decrease if short-term transient rental units invest in traditional R-1 neighborhoods.”

Knight furthered it is impossible to regulate short-term rentals.

“Large groups in vacation party mode are in and out of rental units within three to seven days. No evictions can occur in that time frame and everyone knows it. So we the taxpaying, voting residents are left to anticipate what next Friday or Saturday will bring,” he said. “Instituting the R-1A zone will negate most enforcement issues. A community with year-round residents will exist, owners and renters, all with the best interest of their neighborhood.”

 

Area Realtors Call Proposed Ban ‘Premature’

The Coastal Association of REALTORS (CAR) came to the hearing with a large force in opposition to the proposed R-1A district. Many held up posters and wore stickers stating, “Private Property Rights Matter.”

Representing CAR was Board member Joe Wilson, a realtor for Condominium Realty LTD who serves as chairman of CAR’s Political Action Committee and the owner of a rental property in Ocean City.

“Over the off-season, the town, as well as the PRESS Committee, did an excellent job reaching out to rental-property owners and their representatives to address concerns of neighbors. The results of their efforts have yet to be measured as we have just begun our summer season. The proposal of a ban on short-term rentals is premature. Property owners and rental agencies have implemented new systems and procedures. The proposal of an R-1A district undermines all of their hard work,” Wilson said.

Although CAR sympathizes with Mallard Island, Wilson pointed out the town has regulations to reprimand landlords and tenants when violations occur and enforcement and monitoring the number of rental housing complaints this summer will measure the effectiveness of these actions.

“This hearing is not about a single community, it is about protecting private property rights in Ocean City, Maryland. Adoption of the R-1A district could open the door for future requests. Who is to say that the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Mayor and City Council will not honor a request from an R-2 or R-3 district to be rezoned, thereby effectively banning short-term rentals?,” Wilson said. “This is not keeping our resort town attractive for rentals and investment opportunity. Limiting rentals to a 12-month minimum will have far reaching economic impacts.”

If the supply of rental properties is decreased, the cost of rentals will increase, causing vacationers to spend less money at the local businesses, Wilson asserted. That will also affect the average length of stay, which has already decreased for the most part, cut into demands for off-peak periods and higher costs may encourage some tourists to vacation in larger groups to share the rental expense or require families to rent smaller accommodations then preferred.

“This legislation is unfair to the many owners who purchased their properties on the premise they could rent for vacation purposes. It will adversely affect those who currently hold rental licenses. There may also be owners who intended to use their property as a vacation rental in the future, to serve as a source of income for retirement or to fund a child’s education,” he said. “The vast majority of properties in Ocean City cannot produce nearly as much income when rented out on a year-round basis compared to weekly in-season rentals. The loss of rental income could cause significant economic distress to rental property owners, including foreclosure.”

Wilson argued because the proposed R-1A regulations are substantially the same as those of the existing R-1 district, except for the treatment of short-term rentals, the targeted treatment of short term rentals may give rise to claims that the R-1A ordinance violates the owner’s constitutional right to equal protection upon basis the zoning ordinance would treat single family homes in single family residential districts differently depending upon whether they are zoned R-1 or R-1A.

“Many investors strictly use the income approach to value when evaluating a real estate investment. Many buyers in our area require rental income in order to qualify for their purchase mortgage,” he said. “In a time when economic opportunity is so sparse, the last thing we need is to regulate owners out of the investments they’ve created for themselves.”

 

Officials Vote 5-2 To Support Change

Once the public hearing was closed, the commission was torn on whether to deliberate and cast a vote that evening.

“The residents are asking us to put a tool in the toolbox, and that would be the proposed R-1A district,” commission member Palmer Gillis said. “What we are proposing this evening does not impact one piece of property. It does not impact one neighborhood. It is only giving those neighborhoods that collectively come to a mutual decision to place that restriction on themselves. I am in support of suggesting to the Mayor and City Council that they move forward with this initiative …”

According to commission member Lauren Taylor, Ocean City’s residential population has declined while other parts of Worcester County and areas of Delaware are increasing.

“Part of what we are supposed to do is protect property rights, protect neighborhoods, protect people’s freedoms and enjoyment of life,” Taylor said. “I don’t see why this should not be available. Let’s take Mallard Island for example where there are two different types of properties. Whose property rights are more important? There are way more owners than there are renters, so if you are going to look out for property rights, look out for the majority. Why would you allow a very small number of people destroy the character of a neighborhood? This isn’t being imposed on anyone. It is an option if people in a neighborhood want for themselves they can choose it, and I don’t know why we would stand in their way.”

The commission voted 5-2 to forward a favorable recommendation with members John Staley and Chris Shanahan in opposition due to wanting more time to decide.

“The one thing that I would like you all to take from this public hearing that we are here for the entire Town of Ocean City and we have taken the pledge to uphold the safety and welfare of this community, and we all take that seriously,” Chair Pam Buckley said. “The one thing that is certainly true is that it should not just be single-family neighborhoods that have to deal with lousy vacationers … safety to me is the biggest issue.”