Jeff Thaler, a 19-year veteran of Ocean City’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), is moving on. Thaler informed Mayor Rick Meehan of his decision to step down from the board last month, but he was planning to hold off until the Oct. 22 BZA meeting to inform all of his colleagues on the appointed panel, of which he has been chair for seven years. Those plans changed this week.
As a result of a closed session discussion reportedly being leaked to a member of the local media, Thaler went public with his decision to leave the BZA and instead serve on a state committee as a governor’s office appointee. Thaler could not divulge what committee he would be serving on, but he did say, “he would still be serving Ocean City on the committee, actually the entire shore. I will be traveling once a month to Annapolis and there will be a meeting or two in Ocean City. It will become official in the next couple weeks. It relates to zoning, but I can’t say anymore at this time.”
Thaler said his decision to step down has nothing to do with ongoing legal proceedings involving the property on 65th Street formerly home to the 65th Street Slide and Ride. As readers will recall, Rick Laws, the property owner, came before the Ocean City Planning Commission recently for a 64-room hotel on the land and received site plan approval, but the city wants the property to expand its facilities nearby. A condemnation proceeding has begun, and it looks like a court will make the final decision on the city’s potential land grab. Thaler’s company has a hand in the design of this project, but the development never came before the BZA. He said he has been working with Laws on the project for the last seven months. “It’s been a great trip. Is it time to move on? Yes. I do not want to get in the middle of a city condemnation process and a piece of property we are doing plans for. Who needs that aggravation?,” Thaler said. “I enjoyed being on the board and enjoyed working for and with most of the City Councils.”
Although he will not be directly serving on a town board, Thaler said he still has an interest in representing Ocean City. “I will still be serving local people by being the Ocean City representative on this other board,” Thaler said. Additionally, Thaler hinted he might soon become an active player in city politics, saying, “I always said the year my kids go to college would be the year I would consider the City Council.” For what it’s worth, Thaler’s children will graduate from Worcester Preparatory School in May of 2010, which just happens to be an election year in Ocean City.
When Seacrets owner Leighton Moore talks, people listen, perhaps that’s because he’s direct and has the experience to prove he knows what he’s talking about. In an interview this week, Moore talked about a lot, including his new boat-building venture, and weighed in on a number of matters germane to the local political world. Some excerpts I found most interesting included:
— On overall business: “The people who were able to handle the masses of customers when they were here, and those who can shrink and scale back their properties when the masses go home will always fare well. … People are still coming to Ocean City, but they are just spending much less.”
— On the current ad agency search: “I don’t have any axes to grind or have any candle to hold for the current company, but sometimes you stay with something that put Ocean City on the map more so than ever, and they did that so why would we change to a new agency now in these uncertain times.”
— On the need for a performing arts center in Ocean City: “I think the Maryland Stadium Authority will eventually agree to go into a partnership with the town of Ocean City and get this expansion done, but anyone who voted against the expansion and the performing arts center I think has an axe to grind somewhere else and are trying to make a point. I don’t get it, and I never will understand why people wouldn’t want this.”