OC Strikes Deal Aimed At Increasing Concert Bookings At Performing Arts Center

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OCEAN CITY — The Performing Arts Center could see an expansion of the number and quality of concerts over the next two years after town officials this week approved a cost-sharing contract with a popular special events promoter in the resort.

The Mayor and Council on Tuesday agreed to enter a Memorandum of Understanding with Special Event Productions-TEAM Productions and Bob Rothermel to pool resources on drawing more concerts to the Performing Arts Center (PAC) in the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. Under the terms of the MOU approved on Tuesday, the Town of Ocean City will provide $40,000 in each of the next two years to bring two concerts to the PAC in fiscal year 2016 and four in fiscal year 2017.

Through the contract, Rothermel and TEAM Productions will supply the talent-buying and event management services and Ocean City will provide the funding to bring as many as six significant concert events to the PAC by the end of fiscal year 2017, including two as soon as the end of this June. In simplest terms, the MOU hopes to take advantage of Rothermel’s expertise on drawing major acts to the PAC in a partnership that allows both parties to share in the profits of the events.

Mayor Rick Meehan outlined the nuts and bolts of the MOU at the council work session on Tuesday. He explained the contract will allow Rothermel and Convention Center Director Larry Noccolino to work together on bringing major concerts to the PAC with a profit-sharing agreement between the parties, and potentially the loss-sharing.
“The goal here is to maximize our dollars and minimize our expense in promoting the Performing Arts Center and putting on shows at the center,” he said. “We will also share any losses, although we don’t anticipate that happening, as well as share 50-50 in any of the profits.”

Meehan said the MOU represents an opportunity to expand and improve the viability of the PAC, which opened in December 2014. While there have been several special events at the PAC, the MOU approved on Tuesday is expected to increase the number and quality of acts at the new venue.

“We feel this is a way to work together to co-promote and increase the viability of the Performing Arts Center and build the venue, which is our goal, and to work with somebody who is already experienced in promoting shows at the venue,” he said. “We want to move forward with this and the reason we’re moving forward now is, hopefully, there is a timetable to meet to have two concerts before the end of this fiscal year and four in the next fiscal year.”

Ocean City’s investment is protected somewhat in that the hard costs of producing a concert at the venue, from the hiring of the acts to marketing to the costs of the sounds and lights, for example, will be deducted from the gate revenues before any profits are shared. Whatever profits remain after the hard costs will be shared equally between the town and the promoter.

“I think this is a win-win for the town and the promoter as well,” said Meehan. “I think this is a great opportunity and I think it is something we’re all looking forward to expanding.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman said the MOU on the table on Tuesday had been carefully scrutinized by the town’s elected officials, Noccolino, Rothermel and all parties involved and made a motion to approve the MOU.

“I think what we have before us is a very balanced agreement,” he said. “It does allow us to bring performances to the Performing Arts Center that we might not have gotten without this partnership.”

Councilman Dennis Dare pointed out the PAC, and the convention center in general, involves a shared partnership between the town and the Maryland Stadium Authority and asked whether the MSA should be allowed to sign off on the agreement.

“The convention center is a joint venture with the Maryland Stadium Authority,” he said. “I think this agreement ought to be reviewed with them. I don’t see the harm in asking them if the contract meets their approval.”

Hartman asked Noccolino if the MSA weighed in on the types and numbers of special events booked at the PAC and questioned if the MSA should be brought into the fold. Noccolino said the while the town was partners with the MSA, state officials thus far had little input on the number and types of performances at the PAC, or the convention center in general, for that matter.

“I would rather make them aware of what we’re doing rather than asking them for approval,” he said. “We’ve never had to have approval from the MSA for any other event at the Performing Arts Center. As long as we’re in line with our budget, they don’t need to approve everything.”

With that said, Hartman’s motion was amended to make the MSA aware of the contract with TEAM Productions was approved unanimously with Councilman Tony DeLuca absent.

Boat Show Weekend Returns To Ocean City

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OCEAN CITY — With winter’s unrelenting grip on the resort area this week, most local residents and visitors are likely looking for a sign of warmer days to come and the return of the Seaside Boat Show this weekend for the 33rd year could provide just the tonic.

For the past 32 years, the Seaside Boat Show, sponsored by the Ocean City-Berlin Optimists, has helped mark a turning point in the winter season for many visitors to the resort and its hearty year-round population and this year should be no different. Coupled with the three-day President’s Day weekend along with Valentine’s Day, the boat show is a jumping off point for many businesses closed during the winter season and a harbinger of warmer days to come.

Now in its 33rd year, the annual Seaside Boat Show is thriving with as many as 15,000 visitors expected to attend. The show will feature over 350 boats, 150 exhibitors and 50 boat dealers, according to Ocean City-Berlin Optimists spokesman Charles Smith. The exhibitors and dealers will offer numerous special show prices and display the newest and most popular models along with the latest in electronics.

The large number of boats sold each year during the Seaside Boat Show makes the event one of the most popular on the east coast. Smith said the Optimists never have any trouble filling the space and actually had to get creative this year to fit everybody in.

“We never have any problem renting the space, but with the Performing Arts Center opening last year, we actually lost some of our exhibit space,” he said. “Most of the vendors and exhibitors actually want more space, but in order to keep everybody and not lose any of the regular vendors, we had to cut their space in some cases.”

Again this year, the annual event is dubbed “the boat show that works for kids” because it provides the local Optimist Club with its largest fundraising opportunity of the year with nearly all of the proceeds invested back into the community in the form of support for local youth. The local affiliate has over 120 members and is recognized as one of the best clubs in the parent Optimist International organization.

Income derived from the annual boat show helps support many local youth and community service programs in a variety of ways. For example, the Optimists hold an annual lottery during the boat show with proceeds dedicated to its scholarship program. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased throughout the weekend with the drawing set for Sunday. Over the last three-plus decades, nearly $2 million in scholarships have been dedicated from the boat show proceeds.

While its benefits in terms of providing an economic shot in the arm for the resort business community cannot be discounted, the boat show’s biggest beneficiaries are the local charities and public service programs the Optimists support with the funds they raise. In addition to the scholarship program, the show provides the Optimist Club with the opportunity to raise funds for the many programs it supports including the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Junior Achievement, Diakonia, Children’s House by the Sea and all local schools and recreation programs. Smith said this week at the Ocean City-Berlin Optimists’ recent 40th anniversary celebration, it was estimated the club has raised and donated over $5 million for its youth-related beneficiaries, much of which comes from the boat show.

“We call it the boat show that works for kids because honestly that couldn’t be more accurate,” he said. “This allows us to raise a tremendous amount of money for the kids and almost every cent goes right back into the community.”

One of the highlights each year is the wonderful door prize which all attendees will be eligible to win. For years, North Bay Marina and Scott and Mary McCurdy have donated a boat for the main door prize and every person who purchases a show admission ticket will once again have a chance to win it this year.

Smith said this year’s show will look a lot like prior year events with the top of the line sport cruisers, sport fishing, performance and “super boats” on display. He said exciting new things each year are the technological advances in the boating industry on display from the vendors. The show will also have financing and insurance companies on hand to facilitate boat purchases.

As the name implies, the annual event is all about boats large and small, but there is much more going on with something to offer everybody. In addition to boats, the exhibitors will include marine electronics, trailers, canvass tops, motors, jewelry, artwork and fishing gear. The Seaside Boat Show opens on Friday, Feb. 12 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and concludes on Sunday,  Feb 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $1 for kids and a weekend pass can be purchased for $15.

 

Delaware Home Destroyed In Fire

Delaware

FENWICK ISLAND — A huge mid-day fire at a waterfront residence in Selbyville sent black smoke billowing across the area Monday and displaced a local family.

Around noon on Monday, the Roxana, Ocean City and Bethany Beach fire companies responded to a residential house fire on Bayberry Road in the Keen-Wick on the Bay community along the waterfront in Selbyville. First arriving units from the Roxana Fire Company observed the two-story, single-family residence completely involved in fire.

Multiple fire companies responded to the Keen-Wick on the Bay residential fire on Monday. Photo by Will Hall and Pam Adkins

Multiple fire companies responded to the Keen-Wick on the Bay residential fire on Monday. Photo by Will Hall and Pam Adkins

The Ocean City Fire Department was second on the scene and began laying in hose lines from a hydrant to the arriving Tower 90. Roxana Fire Company Deputy Chief Sean Magee established command and quickly sounded a second alarm as the fire swept through the residence and began to threaten neighboring properties, bringing the Selbyville and Millville Fire Companies to the scene.

The allied fire crews worked for over an hour to bring the initial blaze under control and clearing exposures to neighboring residences. Crews remained on scene throughout the afternoon doing remediation work. The home was occupied by one resident, but no injuries were reported. The initial estimated damage to the residence came in at around $1.1 million. Two neighboring residences suffered damage.

Former O.C. Jamboree Property Headed To Auction This Month

WEST OCEAN CITY — Following a federal court ruling this week, the long-shuttered O.C. Jamboree property in West Ocean City will be auctioned later this month while the former owner awaits trial for sexual solicitation of a minor and possessing child pornography.

In December, the U.S. Bank filed a complaint in federal court seeking emergency injunctive relief against West Ocean City business owner David Weatherholtz and other named defendants in an attempt to take control of the property that most recently hosted the O.C. Jamboree on Route 611 in West Ocean City. Last March, Weatherholtz was indicted in federal court on several felony charges including producing and possession child pornography and attempting to entice minors to engage in sex, among others.

With Weatherholtz awaiting trial in a federal medical facility in Massachusetts and the O.C. Jamboree long-since shuttered, the U.S. Bank filed the emergency complaint seeking to take control of the property through a third-party receiver. The U.S. Bank holds a promissory note on the O.C. Jamboree property in amount over $400,000 and sought to protect its interest in the property, which is in danger of falling into disrepair.

In early January, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction, allowing the U.S. Bank to seize control of the West Ocean City property. The U.S. Bank then turned over control of the property to a third-party receiver, Gray and Associates.

In addition to other powers and responsibilities granted to the receiver, Gray and Associates has been authorized to engage the services of a real estate broker or auctioneer to market the real estate and the personal property for sale. As a result, Gray and Associates has entered into an agreement with Atlantic Auctioneers to auction the old Ocean City Jamboree property. The property is being offered “as is,” and the auction is tentatively set for Feb. 26 at 11 a.m. on the premises.

Since Weatherholtz was indicted and been incarcerated, the OC Jamboree has remained shuttered and padlocked and no payments to the bank have been made for the loan. In addition, Weatherholtz and the other named defendants missed a $10,000-plus property tax payment to Worcester County, putting the property at risk for liens or ultimately seizure. Perhaps most urgent, however, is the need to restore utility service to the property, which has sat vacant for several months.

Historic Ocean City Church Undergoing Major Renovation Project

The steeple of the St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church is pictured being worked on this week. Photo by Shawn Soper

OCEAN CITY — An historic downtown landmark, the oldest Catholic church in Ocean City, is getting a major facelift, including the restoration of its steeple, which was removed this week.

St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church, which dates back to 1877 and nearly the beginning of the resort itself, is undergoing a major restoration and renovation. On Monday, the ancient steeple and bell tower at the historic church on the corner of Baltimore Avenue and Talbot Street was removed and is now undergoing a major restoration in a lot adjacent to the church.

The lot used to house the church rectory, but it was demolished last year as part of the larger renovation plan. St. Mary’s Star of the Sea-Holy Savior Parish Facilities Manager Tony Dicken said this week the removal of the steeple on Monday created a few anxious moments as a large crane carefully lowered the structure into the church yard below.

“As the crane was getting ready, it was completely calm,” he said. “The moment the crane started lifting off the steeple, the winds picked up and it was a little dicey for a few minutes. Once the steeple was lowered into the adjacent lot, the winds died back down and it was completely calm again.”

Removing and renovating the steeple is just part of the larger major renovation for the historic church in Ocean City. The larger project includes repairs to the roof and the structure itself, along with the restoration of its many stained glass windows. The old rectory was torn down, creating a vacant lot which will be repurposed by the parish.

“We’re going to create a garden of sorts with that lot,” said Dicken. “The old bell that was in the steeple for decades will be displayed in the yard and won’t go back in the steeple when it is renovated. Instead, we’re going to create a courtyard or garden with the historic bell on display and some nice landscaping.”

The parish also plans on creating a couple of parking spots on the now vacant lot to accommodate weddings and funerals, for example. Currently, wedding and funeral vehicles have to stop on Baltimore Avenue or along Talbot Street, often creating traffic issues. The parish also plans on expanding the existing church with an addition on the vacant lot.

“The plan is to attach a building to the existing sacristy,” said Dicken. “It’s just a modest little addition with bathrooms and a staging area for weddings and other special events.”

The St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church on Talbot Street dates back nearly as long as Ocean City itself, which was founded in 1874. In 1877, visiting clergy recognized the need for a Catholic ministry in the fledgling seaside town and a small cottage on Wicomico Street and the present day Boardwalk, now the site of Dolle’s Candy and the Cork Bar, was used as a ministry for visiting Catholics. In 1878, the Bishop of Wilmington arranged to purchase three lots for $100 each at Baltimore Ave. and Talbot Street and work on the new church began later that year.

In 1907, the church was expanded again with the steeple erected and the bell installed. St. Mary’s Star of the Sea became a mission church for the new St. Francis de Sales Parish in Salisbury. In 1927, the parish sold one of the original lots on Dorchester Street to the Ocean City Fire Company for just $10 and a new fire station was built on the site and remains in use today.

As the resort grew, so did the need for more and more space for the visiting Catholic population. In 1939, St. Mary’s Star of the Sea expanded again, doubling its capacity. In 1949, the diocese purchased the property at 17th and 18th streets, which would become home to the Holy Savior Parish. A centennial celebration for St. Mary’s Star of the Sea was held in 1977, marking the founding of the first Catholic church in Ocean City.

Nearly 140 years later, the historic church in the heart of the downtown area, which had fallen into disrepair somewhat over the years, is now undergoing another major renovation.

“This little church isn’t going anywhere,” said Dicken this week. “It means too much to, too many people.”

OC Businessman Admits To Memorabilia Fraud Scheme

OCEAN CITY — A local restaurant owner charged late last week in an alleged $2.5 million counterfeit sports memorabilia scheme has reached a plea agreement that will include the forfeiture of certain real estate and other personal property, but it appears his resort business will not be included on the list.

On Friday, Ocean City Brewing Company owner Joshua Shores, 41, of Pennsylvania and Ocean City, was charged in U.S. District Court in connection with a $2.5 million fraud scheme involving counterfeit sports memorabilia sold over the Internet through his various companies over a period from January 2008 to May 2013.  Shores, who owns and operates the Ocean City Brewing Company in the resort, allegedly created various Internet businesses in Pennsylvania and Maryland to traffic counterfeit and fraudulent sports memorabilia.

Shores has entered a plea agreement in U.S. District Court although the plea has not been formalized. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, along with a maximum fine of $250,000 along with the forfeiture of a residential property on Chicago Ave. in Ocean City, various vehicles and other personal property allegedly obtained through the proceeds of the fraud scheme. However, not listed among the property included for potential forfeiture is the Ocean City Brewing Company on Coastal Highway in the resort, nor its sister brewery and restaurant operation in Bel Air, Md.

According to the charging documents filed on Friday, Shores, through his various Internet companies, obtained counterfeit sports jerseys in bulk from China and affixed autographs to them including the signatures of well-known professional athletes and sports figures. Shores then sold the fraudulent jerseys along with other sports memorabilia through his Internet businesses with fraudulent certificates of authenticity.

“It was part of the scheme that on multiple occasions, Shores purchased counterfeit sports jerseys in bulk from China,” the charging documents read.
“He also purchased sports items such as mini-football helmets, footballs and baseballs from retail stores and a wholesaler. These items were used in the furtherance of the scheme.”

The charging documents assert Shores affixed onto the counterfeit sports jerseys and sports items fraudulent autographs purported to be the authentic autograph of notable athletes and sports figures. Shore allegedly rented mailboxes and established mail receiving services with companies located in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Unsuspecting buyers purchased the fraudulent memorabilia from Shores’ Internet businesses through PayPal and Amazon accounts he created.

In one example, in September 2012, a federal agent operating in an undercover capacity in New Jersey conducted an online purchase of a Cliff Lee-autographed Philadelphia Phillies jersey from Stadium Authentics for $249.95 plus shipping. The item’s description as it appeared on Stadium Authentics website stated “This is an authentic Cliff Lee Philadelphia Phillies Majestic Baseball Jersey autographed by Cliff Lee. This authentic jersey was hand-signed and the signature is not a print.”

Upon receipt of the jersey by the undercover agent, the item was sent to the MLB’s Authentication Department in New York. After reviewing the item for authenticity, a licensed Majestic Sports authentication group determined that the jersey was counterfeit. That is just one example. The charging documents assert Shores “fraudulently obtained approximately $2.5 million by selling various counterfeit and fraudulent sports memorabilia by means of wire communications in interstate commerce via his many internet businesses during the years 2008 through 2013.”

Shores faces 20 years in prison and a fine as high as $250,000, along with the forfeiture or personal property, including a residence in Ocean City, which were deemed to be obtained from the proceeds of the fraud scheme. However, nowhere in the charging documents is the Ocean City Brewing Company mentioned on the list of potential personal property ripe for forfeiture.

For his part, Shores over the weekend attempted to deflect any attention from the Ocean City Brewing Company in the resort, or its sister operation in Bel Air.

“I am sure everyone is confused and wondering what is going on,” Shores said in an statement released on Facebook. “There are a lot of negative untrue remarks being said and written about me, so I would like to clarify what is going on. Ocean City Brewing and Distilling Company will in no way be affected by my situation.”

In the statement, Shores owned up to the fraud scheme charges although there were a few anomalies between his statement and the charging documents. For example, he did admit purchasing counterfeit sports jerseys in bulk from China, but denied the autographs later affixed were fraudulent. In addition, he referenced building the sports memorabilia company for the last 30 years although he is only 41 years old. Nonetheless, Shores did own up to the fraud scheme he characterized as “poor choices.”

“If you want to know the truth, I imported Chinese replica jerseys and had athletes autograph them,” the statement reads. “By not using official sports jerseys, it tainted anything I sold and destroyed a successful sports company that I had built over the last 30 years. I just made some poor decisions that I deeply regret and I wish I could take back.”

Shores said in the statement he accepted blame and is pleading guilty to the charges to deflect attention away from his other interests.

“To keep a lot of business associates, friends and family out of this, I decided to take full responsibility by myself and plead guilty to the charges we negotiated with the federal government,” the statement reads. “I am not afraid of the rumors or shying away from what happened, again, I just made some poor choices.”

Shores said in the statement it should be business as usual for the Ocean City Brewing Company in the resort, regardless of his personal situation.

“I will now focus on the positive,” the statement reads. “Over the past two-and-a-half years, I have helped create and build Ocean City Brewing Company into what it is today and will continue to do so. Ocean City Brewing Company will always be a family-run operation, built on family values and with this philosophy, we will continue to grow and succeed. I want to say thank you to all my friends, customers and family that are standing by me through this and I appreciate the continued support.”

Wave Machine Definition Clarified; Amenity Must Be In Amusement District

Specific areas in town could only host wave machines, like this one. Image courtesy of Flow Rider

OCEAN CITY — Simulated wave machines, such as the Flow Rider proposed for a downtown site last year, belong in amusement parks and not just anywhere in town, resort planners opined this week.

Last year, a downtown business owner requested permission to install a wave machine on a vacant lot that was part of the old Cropper concrete plant on the bayside at 1st Street. Satisfied the wave machine fit the definition of a water-related recreational activity, the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) granted a special use exception for the site, but it was never developed.

Instead, the prospective business owner made a pitch to develop the wave machine at the 45th Street Village site, but that proposal was challenged and the appeal is still active in Worcester County Circuit Court. In the meantime, the Planning and Zoning Commission has been wrestling with a clear definition of the proposed wave machine and similar devices, how they fit into the zoning code and, consequently, where they can be located.

On Tuesday, the commission approved a new definition that classifies wave machines such as the Flow Rider as amusement devices that should only be allowed in amusement overlay districts. The new definition separates the wave machine and similar man-made devices from traditional water-related recreational activities such as jet skis and wave runners, for example. The new definition lumps wave machines into a class of man-made water-related recreational activities such as water parks and water slides, which are regulated by the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) and does not allow them anywhere outside the resort’s amusement overlay districts.

“Some time ago, a request was made for a wave action device at the old Cropper concrete property,” said Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith. “At the time, we weren’t entirely sure where it fit into our zoning code for water-related recreational activities. The BZA ruled it did qualify as a water-related recreational activity,” Smith said.

However, with the proposed wave machine still mired in a court appeal, the planning commission on Tuesday was looking to tighten that definition.

“We’re looking at this as an amusement device regulated by the state and as such, it should be located within an amusement overlay district,” said Smith. “It should be an amusement device because it is not water-bound like a jet ski or a wave runner, for example. We need to clarify the definition. Some types of water-related activities belong in amusement parks, like water slides and lazy rivers and such.”

Planning Commission Chair Pam Buckley said the distinction should be those activities that are utilized in the bay or in the ocean and not in a pool on the land, for example.

“I think the definition of water-related recreational activities should include those activities that are done in their natural state, and not something that is man-made,” she said. “When something is man-made, it falls into the category of an amusement device.”

Planning Commission Attorney Will Esham said the definition approved on Tuesday would limit wave machines to strictly amusement parks.

“Under this language, they would not be allowed at the 94th Street mall, for example,” he said. “Following that same logic, the old water slide at 65th Street would not have been able to be built.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ocean City Formalizes Need For Fed Funds In Letter To Senate

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City officials this week made a pitch for continued federal funding for a variety of ongoing projects around the resort, including beach replenishment and the dredging of the Inlet and commercial harbor.

The Mayor and Council on Monday approved sending a letter to U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), seeking support for the maritime projects through the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), legislation that funds various Army Corps of Engineers projects including beach replenishment and navigation dredging.

Cardin is a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which is seeking a prioritized list from jurisdictions on funding requests for Army Corps projects by Feb. 12. Through the letter to Cardin, Ocean City is seeking continued funding for beach replenishment, the deepening of the Inlet and commercial harbor channels, maintaining existing federal channels in the bays and continuing to deposit dredge spoil on Assateague to enhance the shoreline on the deteriorating barrier island.

City Engineer Terry McGean requested approval on Monday to send the letter to the Senate committee that holds the purse strings on Army Corps of Engineers projects.

“This is federal legislation that authorizes a lot of the Corps project so critical to Ocean City,” he said. “We added the Assateague Island restoration project because being able to deposit dredged material there is so important to keeping the Inlet open.”

Paramount for Ocean City is the continued federal funding for beach replenishment. The Army Corps of Engineers replenishes the beaches in Ocean City every four years, along with emergency repairs when necessary, through a federal, state and local partnership. The federal government provides the lion’s share of the funding at around 50 percent. For example, the total current allocation is nearly $268 million, of which the federal government pays $146 million. Roughly $47 million has been allocated through 2013, leaving a balance of $98 million. The life of the project extends to 2044.

“… this project has successfully protected the lives, property and economy of Ocean City and prevented over $700 million in storm damages since its completion,” the town’s letter to Cardin approved this week reads. “The project is cost-shared by the Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Maryland, Worcester County and Ocean City. The continued funding of the federal cost share for this project is essential.”

No less important is the continued dredging of the Inlet and commercial harbor channels. The Inlet continues to silt in, requiring frequent maintenance dredging and federal, state and local partners are seeking a longer-term solution. The Inlet is currently authorized to be dredged to a depth of 10 feet, which has been deemed too shallow to accommodate many of the commercial vessels, forcing some to leave for different ports.

“These channels are vital for the commercial and recreational fishing industries of Ocean City and Worcester County,” the letter reads. “The current authorized depth is 10 feet and is inadequate to accommodate the local commercial vessels that draw up to 13 feet.”

The letter addresses each of the four projects for which continued funding is being sought.

“Each of these projects are to maintain or enhance previously funded Army Corps of Engineers initiatives,” the letter reads. “The Ocean City Mayor and Council are fully committed to continuing our partnership in these endeavors and hope that the WRDA legislation will enable the Army Corps of Engineers to lead these efforts.”

Wave Machine Definition Clarified; Amenity Must Be In Amusement District

Specific areas in town could only host wave machines, like this one. Image courtesy of Flow Rider

OCEAN CITY — Simulated wave machines, such as the Flow Rider proposed for a downtown site last year, belong in amusement parks and not just anywhere in town, resort planners opined this week.

Last year, a downtown business owner requested permission to install a wave machine on a vacant lot that was part of the old Cropper concrete plant on the bayside at 1st Street. Satisfied the wave machine fit the definition of a water-related recreational activity, the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) granted a special use exception for the site, but it was never developed.

Instead, the prospective business owner made a pitch to develop the wave machine at the 45th Street Village site, but that proposal was challenged and the appeal is still active in Worcester County Circuit Court. In the meantime, the Planning and Zoning Commission has been wrestling with a clear definition of the proposed wave machine and similar devices, how they fit into the zoning code and, consequently, where they can be located.

On Tuesday, the commission approved a new definition that classifies wave machines such as the Flow Rider as amusement devices that should only be allowed in amusement overlay districts. The new definition separates the wave machine and similar man-made devices from traditional water-related recreational activities such as jet skis and wave runners, for example. The new definition lumps wave machines into a class of man-made water-related recreational activities such as water parks and water slides, which are regulated by the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) and does not allow them anywhere outside the resort’s amusement overlay districts.

“Some time ago, a request was made for a wave action device at the old Cropper concrete property,” said Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith. “At the time, we weren’t entirely sure where it fit into our zoning code for water-related recreational activities. The BZA ruled it did qualify as a water-related recreational activity,” Smith said.

However, with the proposed wave machine still mired in a court appeal, the planning commission on Tuesday was looking to tighten that definition.

“We’re looking at this as an amusement device regulated by the state and as such, it should be located within an amusement overlay district,” said Smith. “It should be an amusement device because it is not water-bound like a jet ski or a wave runner, for example. We need to clarify the definition. Some types of water-related activities belong in amusement parks, like water slides and lazy rivers and such.”

Planning Commission Chair Pam Buckley said the distinction should be those activities that are utilized in the bay or in the ocean and not in a pool on the land, for example.

“I think the definition of water-related recreational activities should include those activities that are done in their natural state, and not something that is man-made,” she said. “When something is man-made, it falls into the category of an amusement device.”

Planning Commission Attorney Will Esham said the definition approved on Tuesday would limit wave machines to strictly amusement parks.

“Under this language, they would not be allowed at the 94th Street mall, for example,” he said. “Following that same logic, the old water slide at 65th Street would not have been able to be built.”

Historic Ocean City Church Undergoing Major Renovation Project; Steeple Removed This Week For Overhaul

The steeple of the St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church is pictured being worked on this week. Photo by Shawn Soper

OCEAN CITY — An historic downtown landmark, the oldest Catholic church in Ocean City, is getting a major facelift, including the restoration of its steeple, which was removed this week.

St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church, which dates back to 1877 and nearly the beginning of the resort itself, is undergoing a major restoration and renovation. On Monday, the ancient steeple and bell tower at the historic church on the corner of Baltimore Avenue and Talbot Street was removed and is now undergoing a major restoration in a lot adjacent to the church.

The lot used to house the church rectory, but it was demolished last year as part of the larger renovation plan. St. Mary’s Star of the Sea-Holy Savior Parish Facilities Manager Tony Dicken said this week the removal of the steeple on Monday created a few anxious moments as a large crane carefully lowered the structure into the church yard below.

“As the crane was getting ready, it was completely calm,” he said. “The moment the crane started lifting off the steeple, the winds picked up and it was a little dicey for a few minutes. Once the steeple was lowered into the adjacent lot, the winds died back down and it was completely calm again.”

Removing and renovating the steeple is just part of the larger major renovation for the historic church in Ocean City. The larger project includes repairs to the roof and the structure itself, along with the restoration of its many stained glass windows. The old rectory was torn down, creating a vacant lot which will be repurposed by the parish.

“We’re going to create a garden of sorts with that lot,” said Dicken. “The old bell that was in the steeple for decades will be displayed in the yard and won’t go back in the steeple when it is renovated. Instead, we’re going to create a courtyard or garden with the historic bell on display and some nice landscaping.”

The parish also plans on creating a couple of parking spots on the now vacant lot to accommodate weddings and funerals, for example. Currently, wedding and funeral vehicles have to stop on Baltimore Avenue or along Talbot Street, often creating traffic issues. The parish also plans on expanding the existing church with an addition on the vacant lot.

“The plan is to attach a building to the existing sacristy,” said Dicken. “It’s just a modest little addition with bathrooms and a staging area for weddings and other special events.”

The St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church on Talbot Street dates back nearly as long as Ocean City itself, which was founded in 1874. In 1877, visiting clergy recognized the need for a Catholic ministry in the fledgling seaside town and a small cottage on Wicomico Street and the present day Boardwalk, now the site of Dolle’s Candy and the Cork Bar, was used as a ministry for visiting Catholics. In 1878, the Bishop of Wilmington arranged to purchase three lots for $100 each at Baltimore Ave. and Talbot Street and work on the new church began later that year.

In 1907, the church was expanded again with the steeple erected and the bell installed. St. Mary’s Star of the Sea became a mission church for the new St. Francis de Sales Parish in Salisbury. In 1927, the parish sold one of the original lots on Dorchester Street to the Ocean City Fire Company for just $10 and a new fire station was built on the site and remains in use today.

As the resort grew, so did the need for more and more space for the visiting Catholic population. In 1939, St. Mary’s Star of the Sea expanded again, doubling its capacity. In 1949, the diocese purchased the property at 17th and 18th streets, which would become home to the Holy Savior Parish. A centennial celebration for St. Mary’s Star of the Sea was held in 1977, marking the founding of the first Catholic church in Ocean City.

Nearly 140 years later, the historic church in the heart of the downtown area, which had fallen into disrepair somewhat over the years, is now undergoing another major renovation.

“This little church isn’t going anywhere,” said Dicken this week. “It means too much to, too many people.”