Ocean City News In Brief

OCEAN CITY – This week, the old adage is true that when one thing starts, another must come to an end. So, as the City Council gave the nod for a new eco-tourism business, it also gave the blessing to demolish a downtown building that some politely call an “eyesore”, while others think a “safety hazard” is a better description.

Kayak Venture Approved;Zoning Questions Raised

Public Works Director Hal Adkins has been quietly trying to get a new activity that will draw people to the Ocean City Airport, adding to the sightseeing bi-plane tours and skydiving ventures that exist currently.

The council granted 15-year kayak business owner Mitch Mitchell of Coastal Kayaks, located just outside of Fenwick Island on Route 1, a four-month contract through the summer, expiring Oct. 31, 2009, to operate an eco-kayak tours in the waters neighboring the airport.

However, in an email from Director of Planning and Development Jesse Houston to Adkins, there may be a problem with the business moving forward as there is a loophole in the zoning regulations that proverbially is not large enough for a kayak to navigate through.

“The current county zoning code does not permit recreational facilities, including marinas and boat landings, for commercial purposes,” said Houston. “Such activities are permitted by special exception when operated exclusively for the public and not for commercial purposes, so in the case of the eco-tourism kayak venture, I believe we may have a problem.”

Mitchell agreed to pay the town $1,500 or 15 percent of total gross revenue for the space, and hoped to have the guided tour kayak business up and running in the next two weeks before Houston’s concerns put the idea on hold.

“We’ll be doing an easy paddle from the airport up to some marshlands which are full of bird life, and then cross the bay to follow the shoreline of Assateague Island,” said Mitchell, “and for those wanting more action, we’ll have kayak surfing on the ocean side of Assateague.”

With this new snag in the plans, Adkins will await the ruling of Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith.

“If this issue fails, it will amaze me, said Adkins, “Here, on one hand we all want to promote low impact tourism that is good for the environment, but then we face zoning regulations that will not permit it. Go figure.”

Demolition On Dorchester Street

The council urged Chief Building Inspector Kevin Brown to move forward with plans to demolish a condemned downtown property at 7 Dorchester Street, after reports showed that the building is in “imminent danger of collapse.”

The two-and-a-half-story wood frame building has been condemned since February and has been vacant for even longer, after being severely damaged by a fire on the back of the building. In a report, City Engineer Terry McGean called the building “unsuitable for human occupancy” and noted that the building’s exterior was in such disrepair he was unable to assess the interior of the building.

Shireen Ramadan, owner of the property, didn’t appeal to the publicized notice of condemnation and has lost his right to appeal the inevitable demise of his building.

The city has a contracting company lined up to do the demolition, at no cost to the town.

“The state has to send a person here on Monday and the utilities need to be addressed before demolition, so hopefully the contractor will have his equipment in by Tuesday night, because as of Wednesday, the whole operation will be shut down for the fireman’s parade,” said Brown.

If the job doesn’t get completed within 15 days, the town may have to front the money to do the job, and go through a lengthy process to bid the job out to a new construction company to complete the demolition.

It is no surprise that all members of council hope that the building comes down on the owner’s dime, and as soon as possible.

“I was down there the other day, and I saw kids playing in the backyard,” said Council President Joe Mitrecic, “so, demolition can’t be soon enough for me.”