Council Supports Fish In OC With $10K For Marketing Effort

OCEAN CITY – The Town of Ocean City will support the Fish in OC endeavor for another year with officials believing it has gained momentum in attracting visitors.

Last week Scott Lenox of Fish in OC presented an update to the Tourism Commission of the marketing initiative’s success in the past year.

“I would like to thank all of you last year for the favorable recommendation to the council. It was approved, and we got things rolling … it has taken off better than ever expected,” Lenox said.

In November 2014, the Mayor and Council voted unanimously to approve the Tourism Commission’s favorable recommendation to support Fish in OC with $10,000 as well as with the town’s trade show equipment.

Lenox presented Fish in OC as a co-op marketing initiative for fishing in Ocean City. Lenox had created a Fish In OC trade show booth and booked six outdoor trade shows scattered through New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania where he marketed Ocean City as a fishing destination.

Lenox and D3Corp created a website, and a trip planner that offers different boats in Ocean City, accommodations, things to do and more.

As part of the town’s agreement with Lenox, Ocean City’s Vacation Guide was distributed at the trade shows along with the Fish in OC magazine, as well as the display of Ocean City tourism videos at the trade shows, the Ocean City logo displayed on the front page of the Fish in OC magazine with a full page advertisement on the back.

Lenox attended six trade shows earlier this year and distributed over 2,000 Ocean City Vacation Guides as well as has produced 20,000-plus Fish in OC magazines with 4,000 distributed at the trade shows, reaching an audience of over 300,000 people.

The other 16,000-plus magazines have been distributed locally all year long in high traffic areas, such as Walmart, Wawa, Visitors Centers, local hotels and restaurants. The Fish in OC website, which is linked to the town’s website, is updated daily as well as weekly email blasts are sent to thousands in the Fish in OC’s database designed to attract interest to OC and profile their website advertisers.

This year Lenox will attend six trade shows starting with the Garden State Outdoor Sports Show in January, Baltimore Boat Show in January, Great American Outdoor Show in February, Greater Philadelphia Outdoor Sport Show in February, World Fishing & Outdoor Exhibition in March and Saltwater Fishing Expo in March.

“It is really working … there is no stopping it now. I think it is going to be a fixture in the fishing community,” Lenox said.

Tourism Director Donna Abbott asked the commission if the town would be interested in supporting Fish in OC in its second year with a $10,000 sponsorship and the trade show equipment. The commission voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation to the full Mayor and City Council to approve.

On Monday evening, Commission Chair and Councilwoman Mary Knight reported the update to the Mayor and City Council. Councilman Matt James made a motion to use $10,000 out of the advertising budget to support Fish in OC in its second year, and the council voted unanimously to approve.

Ocean City Ups Electrical Permit Minimum By 117%; Change A Result Of Building Fee Review

OCEAN CITY – Following further analysis of the permit process and man-hours involved with mechanical and electrical permits, the Mayor and City Council voted to raise the fee to a minimum of $65.

During the fiscal year 2016 budget discussion, the Mayor and City Council requested a review of the permit fee structure in the Building Department. Currently, the stand alone permit fee for electrical and mechanical permits is $30.

In July, Chief Building Official Kevin Brown came before the Mayor and City Council requesting an increase in permit fees. At that time, he explained based on administrative costs and staff time needed to process and issue permits the fee should be increased to a minimum of $45 if not more.

For comparison, the City of Salisbury charges $40 for a mechanical permit, the Town of Easton charges a minimum of $50 and the City of Annapolis charges a minimum of $90.

The City of Annapolis, Anne Arundel County and Virginia Beach charge $80 for electrical permits for 200 amp and up, Wicomico and Worcester counties both charge $25 and the City of Baltimore varies from $25 to $100.

Councilman Wayne Hartman pointed out the majority of electrical inspections are completed by a third party hired by the contractor saving city staff that time. Brown rebutted that a third party may inspect electric but not flood requirements, which led to Hartman’s recommendation.

With the new Flood Insurance Rate Maps being recently approved in Ocean City, contractors recommended the town publish a map of what air conditioning and heating stand heights would be required in certain sections of the town ultimately eliminating a step from the permit process.

Also, it was suggested the issuance of an electrical permit should be eliminated for the replacement of an air conditioning/heating unit because the wiring is not being replaced, just the equipment. Hartman pointed out Worcester County does not require an electrical permit for replacing a unit.

However, Hartman’s colleagues did not agree. Council President Lloyd Martin was the first to point out when replacing an older unit the equipment and wiring needs to be lifted to meet today’s flood requirements.

The majority of the council was in consensus the electrical and mechanical permit fees are in need of an increase but were not prepared to settle on a number. The council voted to have staff takes a closer look and return to the Mayor and City Council with further recommendation.

After further review, Brown returned to the Mayor and City Council last week and recommended mechanical and electrical permit fees be raised to a minimum of $65.

“Many electrocution deaths throughout the country are caused by faulty wiring, poor designs or poorly maintained electrical wiring. The Town of Ocean City has a responsibility to ensure public safety when it comes to electrical and mechanical work performed on both new and existing buildings,” Brown said. “This office receives many complaints throughout the year from many residents and non-residents and contractors. By requiring electrical and mechanical permits, we will be able not to only track activity through inspections and for compliance; we can also provide information when requested to owners, and third-party inspection agencies, Worcester County and Worcester County Health Department.”

Brown furthered all electrical installations are inspected to ensure the installation meets the National Electric Code standards.

“This department of building and inspection safety monitors all electric and mechanical activity from the beginning of the application process to beyond the final inspection by a third-party agency. We can avoid many problems with open communication between staff, contractors and owners,” he said. “As I had mentioned in a previous work session, it would help to offset the cost associated with issuing permits. The costs of these types of permits should not have additional burden to the general taxpayer. It is my recommendation to raise the electrical and mechanical fees based on assessment of work performed during the permit process and analysis of time associated with this process.”

Council Secretary Mark Knight made a motion to raise the minimum fee to $65.

“I didn’t agree with it before, and now it is only getting worse,” Hartman said. “Basically any outside air conditioning unit installed since 1972 should be on a FEMA stand, and seeing how many are not it just solidifies my comments at the last meeting about the lack of permits for replacement of heating and air conditioning units because they are most likely done without a permit. Once again, I am going to suggest a simple replacement of a heating and air conditioning system can be done without a permit. Have a map and the elevation required, and it can easily be done without a permit as most of them are already being done already.”

City Engineer Terry McGean interjected the town’s requirement to receive a mechanical permit all began as of result of deaths in Ocean City a number of years ago caused by the replacement of a heating unit not being connected properly causing a carbon monoxide leak.

“Electrical is also very serious as well,” Councilman Doug Cymek said.  “We had a death a few years back at a Boardwalk condominium where they were servicing a light pole that wasn’t properly grounded and it took someone’s life. I am supportive of this as well. I would like to see the penalties for not getting a permit increased to encourage people to do the right thing.”

The City Council voted 6-1 with Hartman opposed to increase the mechanical and electrical permit fees to a minimum of $65 from $30, representing a 117-percent increase.

Surge In New Motorized Devices On Boardwalk Leads Council To Freeze Specific Rental Licenses

Photo courtesy of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Street Performers Call New System ‘Badly Broken’; Council Seeks Constructive Approach To Solutions

Street performers are shown protesting outside of City Hall last month. Photo by Joanne Shriner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to painter/caricature artist Michael Moeller, he was threatened with a citation for sitting under an umbrella over 5 feet tall to shield himself from the sun.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Proposed Law Changes Aimed At OC Vehicle Events; Public Nuisance Issues Targeted

OCEAN CITY – For the last couple of years, city officials have promised action to ease concerns over vehicular events in Ocean City, and a first step is the Police Commission proposing recommended changes to city laws.

The most recent event to worry residents was Cruisin, which hit Ocean City in May with 3,400 classic cars officially registered for the event and thousands more unaffiliated with it. While the officially registered participants appeared to be well behaved for the most part and attended the event’s official activities at the Inlet and Roland E. Powell Convention Center, the uninvited groups raced up and down Coastal Highway and other streets, dumped trash in parking lots and left a considerable amount of rubber on the roads.

Cruisin has become one of the biggest weekends of the year in Ocean City, according to promoter and organizer Bob Rothermel and many business owners. While local residents bristled at the steady roar of the hot rod engines and the consequences of the large convergence, special events drive the economy in Ocean City, especially in the shoulder seasons. Balancing them with the quality of life has always been a challenge.

Immediately following last year and this year’s events complaints were heard loud from residents demanding changes. The same was reported after last fall’s VW/Audi event, which will return the first weekend of October.

The Police Commission on Monday morning reviewed proposed ordinance changes that would add additional “tools to the toolbox” when it comes to spectators and the damage they cause.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres looked to Myrtle Beach, S.C. and provided copies of laws that relate to the issues Ocean City has been experiencing.

The first proposed change would be to a chapter of Ocean City’s code titled “Offenses and Miscellaneous Provisions.”

“It will be a violation for any business license holder to permit, enable or allow the consumption of or possession in an open container of alcoholic beverage in the parking areas, and the commission or omission of the license holder that allows the unlawful activity constitutes the act of maintaining or contributing to a public nuisance, and the license shall be subject to business license revocation,” the proposed ordinance states. “The employment of security personnel with the posting of signage, or proof of providing written or oral warning of the prohibition to the guests prior to summoning law enforcement, shall create a presumption of compliance with the law by the business license holder.”

Regarding municipal sponsored events, the council can allow possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages at municipal sponsored events and municipal permitted special events on public property and municipal parking lots subject to restrictions and conditions the Mayor and City Council impose.

The commission was in consensus to add here, “…and with approval of a permit of the Board of License Commissioners.”

If in violation, the ordinance calls for a penalty of a municipal infraction. However, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Capt. Kevin Kirstein recommended a municipal misdemeanor. He explained an infraction calls for the issuance of a ticket while a misdemeanor allows for a citation and hearing and/or arrest.

“I support it. This is to address a problem that has been a growing concern, and has been causing issues with our police department as far as enforcement regarding overflow into the streets and right-of-ways during specific events,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “The intent of this is also to notify those who have private parking lots that is required parking that those lots are for that specific purpose and not for the consumption of alcohol or for a party to be set up.”

The next change would be made to an article of same chapter in regards to destruction of required landscaping and parking.

Destructive use is defined as “the congregation, loitering or lingering of persons, or the placement of tents, trailers, structures, cooking devices, chairs, tables, coolers or other objects on or in a required landscaped area in disturbance or damage of the plants or area.”

Public nuisance use of a parking area is defined as “the creation or maintenance of impromptu, unmanaged outdoor events or parties, to set up, place or use tents, trailers, structures, cooking devices, chairs, tables, coolers or other objects from which to sell, dispense, cook, prepare, serve, distribute or consume any food or beverage, object or product; or to broadcast amplified music from vehicles or other devices; or the use of tents, trailers, structures, cooking devices, chairs, tables, coolers or other objects for congregational purposes that prevent the use of the parking area for its intended purpose.”

The ordinance states security resources must be hired to prevent destruction to landscaped areas, as well as prevent the public nuisance of required parking areas. They would be in violation if they are found encouraging or allowing destructive use of required landscaping, as well as if any person engages in the destructive use of required landscaping.

“However, that such events that are specifically permitted through legislative or administrative action, or sponsored by the business license holder, or other entity or person owning or maintaining a required landscape area or parking area in compliance with regulations governing such outdoor events are not included,” the ordinance includes.

Kirstein recommended a waiver be granted to the business license holder, person or entity, as well as those found in violation be penalized with a municipal misdemeanor.

“It sounds like they can waive themselves. If they want a waiver, they should have to come to the Mayor and City Council, and not just decide to use their landscaped area because it is their event,” he said.

The destruction of landscaping has been an issue for some time, the mayor said.

“It is a nuisance that there are situations where landscaping is being destroyed, and the property owner is certainly not guilty when it is somebody that just decided to sit there,” he said. “Code requires landscaping, and property owners are responsible for maintaining that landscaping. In order to receive an occupancy permit, you have to have that landscaping and keep it maintained, and we see a lot of cases where it has been damaged or destroyed. It needs to be addressed as it has caused problems for our department and with the general public.”

The final ordinance change in regards to vehicular events would change the chapter titled, “Traffic and Vehicles.”

The amendment would define a trailer as, “A vehicle that has no motive power, is designed to carry people or property and be towed by a motor vehicle, and is constructed so that no part of its weight rests on the towing vehicle.”

The ordinance would prohibit any oversized vehicle or trailer to be parked on any municipal parking lot, public street, alley or any public way within the corporate limits of Ocean City from May 1 through Oct. 31., except for trailers used for transporting construction materials and equipment for an active site.

“The purpose of this is because our streets during certain events become overcrowded with trailers causing traffic hazards, especially along Baltimore Ave. Originally when these events started there were a lot less trailers but now they are all over the streets including residential areas and it has caused concern,” Meehan said.

The commission was in consensus to move the proposed ordinance changes forward to the full council for approval with the recommended changes.

Traditional Playground Eyed Off Boards

OCEAN CITY – A solution may have been found in adding a new playground to the beach off the Boardwalk.

On Tuesday afternoon Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito proposed to the Recreation and Parks Commission using this year’s Community Parks and Playgrounds Grant funds to purchase a playground to go on the beach downtown.

For the past couple of years, the Recreation and Parks Department has been exploring different avenues in replacing the beach toys that were removed due to becoming outdated.

Last summer the first beach playground replacement of dinosaur bones was put on the beach. Other options have been considered that are similar to the dinosaur structure that was placed on the beach last summer, but the high price tags led to the matter being tabled at that time.

This week Petito returned to the commission presenting the town’s annual application for State of Maryland’s Community Parks and Playgrounds Grant as a solution.

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

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

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

“It would require maintenance,” Petito said. “The matting proposed will help sand blow through but we believe no matter what we put there it is going to get sand blasted but it won’t limit our ability in what that playground can be with the challenges that the beach structures have in being a certain size and weight.”

The grant would cover the project 100 percent except for maintenance costs but the deadline is Aug. 19. With no time to waste, the commission approved the grant application and will report the action item to the full Mayor and Council during Monday evening’s meeting.

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

City Manager Search Process To Cost Resort $22K

OCEAN CITY – The Town of Ocean City has entered into a contract with a national management consulting firm to assist in recruiting city manager candidates with the promise of having the task complete by the New Year.

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s Mayor and City Council work session, the council adjourned into closed session to discuss contractual matters. Upon returning to open session, Council President Lloyd Martin announced a national management consulting firm had been selected to conduct a search for Ocean City’s new city manager.

“There was a motion by Councilman [Doug] Cymek and a second by Councilman [Dennis] Dare to approve Slavin Management Consultants of Norcross, Ga. to be used as our city manager search firm. The vote was unanimous,” Martin said.

According to Council Secretary Mary Knight, Slavin Management Consultants (SMC) has a history working with the Town of Ocean City, as the firm assisted in selecting an engineer in the ‘70’s. This time around the cost to the city to have SMC conduct the search for a city manager is not to exceed $22,373, and it will take a minimum of 60 days to complete the process, according to the firm.

SMC follows a five-step process starting with defining the job qualifications and requirements for the position known as the “Recruitment Profile.” Next comes identifying and recruiting qualified candidates, followed by the evaluation of the prospective candidates, making recommendations, helping in the selection, employment negotiations and facilitating employment. The selection will then be followed up with an evaluation after 30 days. The entire process takes 60 to 90 days to complete.

The agreement with SMC is the first step in replacing former City Manager David Recor after he resigned last month in what the city has officially termed a “mutual decision,” although it’s been confirmed the council forced the issue as a result of mounting disapproval of his job performance. Recor will receive six months of severance pay.

In October 2011, after long-time City Manager Dennis Dare was forced into retirement after the council majority at that time voiced the need “for a change in direction,” the council also voted to conduct a national search to hire a city manager. Springsted Inc. was hired to conduct the national search leading to Recor being hired in May 2012 and filling the position in June 2012.

From start to end, the process to replace Dare took nine months with Mayor Rick Meehan serving as city manager during that time period.

Mayor Believes New Street Performers’ Regs Working

OCEAN CITY – Mayor Rick Meehan addressed the Boardwalk performers’ protest last week during a code amendment discussion on performers and municipal infractions.

On Monday evening, an ordinance adding the recently implemented street performing regulations to the City Code’s section for municipal infractions, while also revising the list of personnel authorized to issue citations, came before the Mayor and City Council on first reading for approval.

The code currently states, “Any person, partnership, corporation, unincorporated association, or other business entity who shall be deemed to have committed a ‘municipal infraction’ shall be issued a citation for such violation and/or noncompliance … the following listed officials are authorized by the Mayor and City Council to issue citations to violators: police officers, Cadets, Animal Control Officers, the Fire Marshal, members of the fire prevention commissions, fire investigators and fire inspectors, members of the beach patrol, building officials, planning and zoning administrators, licensing investigators and licensing inspectors, city engineers and assistants.”

The amendment removes cadets and replaces it with qualified police officers and employees authorized by the chief of police; removes members of the fire prevention commissions and replaces it with fire chiefs; adds deputy fire marshals to fire investigators and fire inspectors; adds Recreation and Parks personnel; and adds the solid waste manager.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres explained the amendment is a matter of updating the code due to the way positions have changed over time.

The amendment also adds the language “Lien on Property authority” where “any municipal infraction resulting in a judgement against the violator shall be a lien on the violator’s property, and the property shall be subject to being sold at tax and lien sales” on top of what the code currently states, “…for each and every such violation and/or noncompliance respectively, be deemed to have committed a ‘municipal infraction,’ punishable by a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $1,000.”

The City Council voted unanimously to approve the amendments.

Meehan took the opportunity to share his experience over the weekend in observing the performers on the boardwalk.

“It was amazing. They were all crowded with big crowds around them and they were all very successfully entertaining the public,” the mayor said. “It showed after we designated certain areas of the Boardwalk the traffic flowed better without the crowds blocking the path of pedestrians and that was the goal. The goal all along was to make it work better for the town, the street performers and the pedestrians on the Boardwalk. If you go up there and look, it’s working, and they [performers] are thriving. Their crowds are big and everyone is smiling and everyone is happy.”

The Town of Ocean City has been struggling with the proliferation of 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. The task force was assisted in the process by a law firm specializing in First Amendment issues.

The council followed course with many of the recommendations, and in mid-June passed an ordinance implementing 32 designated spaces on the street ends of the Boardwalk from the Inlet to 9th Street.

Once the new regulations went into effect on July 27, a group of Boardwalk performers gathered outside of City Hall last Monday in protest wearing T-shirts reading “Free Speech Prisoner” and holding up signs stating “Expression not Suppression.”

“As far as their right and their ability of expression, or to perform, or to entertain, it hasn’t been inhibited at all,” the mayor furthered on Monday, pointing out of the 32 designated spaces five remained open last week. “The street performers are fun to watch, and some of them are excellent. What we have done to solidify that and providing designated areas I think was a good move, and hopefully that will continue to work while they continue to prosper, and we can continue to prosper together.”

Ocean City Names New Planning, Zoning Director

William Neville

OCEAN CITY – The Town of Ocean City announced Tuesday the position of Planning and Zoning Director has been filled one year after it became vacant.

After conducting a national search, which resulted in several qualified candidates, the Town of Ocean City issued a press release announcing William (Bill) Neville had been hired to the position of Planning and Zoning Director.

“Neville brings over 30 years of community planning experience, including recent experience as Planning Director for the nearby coastal town of Chincoteague, Va.,” the release read. “As Planning and Zoning Director, Neville will oversee the planning and zoning department.  The planning division, along with the Planning and Zoning Commission, is responsible for preparing and maintaining the town’s Comprehensive Plan, to which Neville brings local expertise and the ability to integrate design and regulatory solutions with comprehensive plan policies. In addition, Neville brings decades of experience in land use planning and design, implementation of land development codes and ordinances, as well as community participation in the planning process.”

“I am very pleased to welcome Bill to the Planning and Zoning Director position,” said Mayor Rick Meehan, who is also currently serving as interim city manager. “A person of Bill’s caliber, including his knowledge, experience and leadership, will be a great asset to our community and the future of Ocean City.”

Neville’s professional experience includes work in the public and private sectors. Before joining the Town of Chincoteague in 2010, Neville was the Director of Land Planning Services for Daft McCune Walker/DMW and Senior Land Entitlement Manager for Centex Homes. With bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Studies and Landscape Architecture from Syracuse University, Neville’s career began in 1984 in land planning, land development and a balanced background of residential and mixed use community planning in rapidly growing jurisdictions and small towns.

“My family and I have enjoyed living in and around Ocean City for the last 10 years and we are pleased to feel like a part of the community,” Neville said. “I look forward to working closely with the Mayor and City Council, the staff, the various boards and commissions, and of course the residents and property owners, to coordinate Ocean City’s Strategic and Comprehensive Plan for a bright future in our first class resort town.”

The Planning and Zoning Director position opened about a year ago when former Planning and Zoning Director Matt Margotta resigned for “personal reasons” after filling the position for only a year and half.

Margotta was hired for the position after Planning and Community Development Director Jesse Houston retired in September 2012 after 30 years of service with the town.

Houston joined Ocean City in 1982 and had played a significant role in the Department of Planning in Zoning. While Houston’s formal responsibilities included leading the daily planning and zoning efforts of the town, he was also instrumental in the preparation of several comprehensive plans, comprising of the development of Eagles Landing Golf Course, the formation of the Ocean City Development Corporation and the development of Ocean City’s Critical Area Program.

Houston had represented the town in many capacities, such as on the Maryland Coastal Bays Board of Directors and Implementation Committee, the Maryland Climate Change Commission and as a charter member of the American Planning Association.

Margotta joined the town in January 2013 also after a national search was conducted resulting in dozens of qualified candidates. He came to Ocean City from Fort Pierce, Fla., where he held the position of Director of Planning since 2006 working under former City Manager David Recor, who resigned last month after just three years with Ocean City. Margotta was previously Senior Planner for the Town of Bluffton and Hilton Head, S.C.

Just last week the Mayor and City Council held a public discussion over the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recent recommendation to establish an R-1A Single-Family Residential District to ease neighborhood concerns over unruly short-term rentals. As proposed a neighborhood would be able to apply to be re-zoned as R-1A district that limits rentals to 12 months.

During the discussion, Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith pointed out the update of the comprehensive plan is due, which would be the new Planning and Zoning Director’s first task once hired. The consideration for an R-1A district will be included in the process to update the Comprehensive Plan that city officials have agreed to complete as soon as possible.

Council Looks For Short-Term Solution, But Aims To Wrap Rental Concerns Into New Comp Plan

Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – The discussion over implementing a R1A Single-Family Residential District has reached the Mayor and City Council, and it seems the immediate track will be finding a short-term solution until the update of the Comprehensive Plan is complete.

At the end of last summer, Ocean City experienced a growing number of rental concerns and complaints, with the majority of those complaints deriving from Mallard Island. At that time, the Planning and Zoning Commission held public hearings to consider a potential amendment to the City Code regarding the R-1 Single Family Residential District and MH Mobile Home Residential District in 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 was reunited to regularly discuss issues and enhance enforcement. Despite the reformation of PRESS, close to 80 percent of Mallard Island residents signed and submitted a petition in May requesting the implementation of an R-1A zoning district.

Subsequently, the Planning and Zoning Commission held another public hearing last month and voted 5-2 to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to consider the formation of an R-1A zoning district, which currently does not exist in Ocean City’s code.

As proposed, the amendment to the code 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 or mini-week 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.

During the Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing, the voices of residents, rental property owners and real estate companies, who mostly united under Coastal Association of REALTORS® (CAR), were heard.

“We have heard the points of view from both sides, the pros and cons,” Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith said before the Mayor and Council on Tuesday.  “We are going to update the Comprehensive Plan in the near future … if we create a district, it should be part of that update because you have to apply it in a manner that is consistent with the plan itself. There are other parts to the plan where you have to consider the economic liability, desirability, and the enforcement … we are going to have to do an evaluation as part of the update of the plan of the district regulations and district mapping.”

It would make the most sense to establish an R-1A district comprehensively, City Solicitor Guy Ayres said. However, it doesn’t have to wait until the update of the Comprehensive Plan is complete.

“You can do a comprehensive rezoning as long as it complies with the current comprehensive plan,” Ayres said.

There is a great deal of support for and against an R-1A district in Ocean City, Mayor Rick Meehan, who is currently serving as acting city manager after former City Manager David Recor’s resignation last week.

“It would be something we could consider as part of the comprehensive zoning update that has to be completed by 2019, but it will before that because the goal is to move forward as quickly as possible,” Meehan said. “We are at a point in this community that a lot of changes have gone on or are about to go on, and it is certainly relevant to that conversation. I don’t want anyone to think this is going to be postponed. It should be a priority and the update of the plan is a goal of the [planning] department and the Planning Commission to move forward with this as soon as possible.”

According to Smith, the town is about six months out from starting the update of the Comprehensive Plan. The Town of Ocean City has been going through the process of hiring a new director for the Planning and Community Development Department. Once the director is hired, a bid package will be developed to contract with a Comprehensive Plan consultant, who will work with the planning department and the Town of Ocean City to update the Comprehensive Plan.

“We refer to our strategic plan quite a bit, and it had two visions that we started with from the beginning. One has to do with tourism but the other … is safe and clean quality neighborhoods for residents, is accessible and easy travel, and is a place for enjoyable experiences for all. If you don’t have a base of residents in Ocean City … then what kind of community do we have?” Councilman Dennis Dare said. “An issue has been brought forward for all of the residential areas in town. A solution of the R-1A is probably one of the many possible solutions, and I agree it needs to be looked at comprehensively.”

Dare pointed out there have been other short-term solutions aired that could play a role until the update of the Comprehensive Plan is complete, such as a separate rental license for the R1 districts and just eliminating “mini-week vacations” in those areas.

“It would help if the Mayor and City Council met with the planning commission and we got into these different issues where we can make some changes now not ruling out looking at the entire thing comprehensively,” Dare said.

A new Planning and Community Development director will soon be hired, and the Mayor and City Council will meet with the Planning and Zoning Commission to discuss action, Meehan said.

“We have some direction, and some tasks at hand,” he said. “We all need to work together on it. What I hate to see is residents and members of our community attacking each other, whether you a year-round resident living in a single-family neighborhood or whether you’re a property owner who doesn’t live in Ocean City, but still has rights. We represent everybody. It is important that we all remember that and work together for that purpose.”