City Council Finalizes Somerset Plaza Changes

OCEAN CITY – A little over a month has passed since the
Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) proposed a change in the ordinances
dealing with Somerset Plaza downtown and this was the week the OCDC got to see
their proposals finalized and set in stone.

In an attempt to shape their downtown vision and breathe
some life into the plaza this season, OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin and
President Jay Knerr came before the council back in February with proposals to
change ordinances on bike riding in the plaza and conducting business in the
open along the street.

The first ordinance to pass on its second reading was
ordinance 2007-5 that amended chapter 62 of the city code concerning commerce
taking place on Somerset Street. Originally, the code prohibited peddlers and
solicitors from taking part in currency exchanges on the Boardwalk and Somerset
Street, but the change was proposed to allow the Segway rental company EC
Glider and certain retail carts in the plaza to be able to conduct their
business outside.

According to OCDC statements in the past on the idea, the
change in the ordinance will help vendors to get a feel of the market along the
heavily, foot-trafficked street. Should the area be profitable, OCDC hopes the
vendors will decide to move to a more permanent location such as Somerset
itself and rent a building out for further business expansion.

Ordinance 2007-5 was approved for the last time without
any further discussion with a 5-1 vote due to Councilwoman Margaret Pillas
being against the changes and with Councilman Jay Hancock absent.

The second ordinance voted on, ordinance 2007-6, dealt
with the riding of bicycles and Segways along Somerset Street, something that
was prohibited in the past. The resolution lifts that ban somewhat and makes it
so bikes and Segways would only be prohibited between 10 and 2 a.m., the same
rule that applies for the Boardwalk.

According to OCDC, this change will allow the street to
see more activity in the early morning hours with hopes that the a.m. energy
will spur further activity throughout the day.

Ordinance 2007-6 was unanimously approved without any
further discussion and with Councilman Hancock absent.

When the changes were first presented to the council back
in February, there was a little hesitation from council members to make a
decision right away. After a lengthy discussion, the council soon decided to
table the issues until they could be discussed separately at another council
meeting when OCDC representatives could present more information on their

A couple of weeks later on March 13, discussions were
rekindled and concerns with unsafe bicycle traffic during peak hours and a gold
rush of street vendors in the open-air commerce of the plaza plagued council
members. However, there was some give and take on both sides leaving both the
council and OCDC pleased with the new changes.

A week later on March 19, the ordinances OCDC felt were
important to the future success of the plaza were drafted and all passed their
first formal readings, a huge step that contributed to the finalization of its