OCDC Briefs City Council On Summer Plans

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) came before the Mayor and City Council this week to give its annual update and asked for a few requests.

The OCDC was incorporated in 2000 as a nonprofit organization. The corporation is charged with revitalizing downtown Ocean City. Since 2000, the organization has grown to include 102 members, 10 committees and 6,983 volunteer meeting time hours. The OCDC Facade Program has accomplished 98 building renovations, 23 of which were done just in this past year and seven projects are currently underway.

OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin and President Todd Ferrante presented the Mayor and City Council with the organization’s upcoming downtown projects, which will include the installation of way finding signs, code revisions on sign standards, painting of the utility box on 17th Street, a public art special event in May and Quick Response (QR) code Walking Tour brochures.

The installation of way finding signs will be paid for by a grant that the OCDC received. Irwin said that the corporation has been working with city engineers on the best locations to place the signs.

“We will probably install eight of these way finding signs to identify where things are downtown,” Irwin said. “Just to let people know where public parking is downtown, or where Sunset Park is … it is something that we thought has been in need for many years.”

Partnered with the Art League of Ocean City, the OCDC offers local schools and organizations participation in painting utility boxes in the downtown area.

“Each year, we try to do one or two,” Irwin said. “This year the Catholic Church on 17th Street has come before us to ask if we would do their utility box working with the students of Most Blessed Sacrament in Ocean Pines.”

A new event that the OCDC’s public art committee is planning is a fundraiser for a public art program. The event will be focused around the Preakness Derby in May and be held at the Captain’s Table Restaurant in the Courtyard by Marriott.

According to Irwin, the OCDC is working with the Downtown Association, OC Lifesaving Station Museum and the Boardwalk Development Association (BDA) to update their Walking Tour brochures. OCDC would like to contribute funds toward printing the new “hi tech” QRC brochures. The Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Rural Development Center have committed funding towards the printing.

A QR code is a specific matrix barcode. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be a text, URL, or other data. The code is readable by dedicated QR code readers, camera phones or smart phones.

“Anyone with a smart phone will with a code placed…on a building be able to scan it and pull up the same information [as on the brochure] on their smartphone,” Irwin said.

Irwin said OCDC could even take it one step forward and have videos set up of property owners explaining the building and its history, for example the Lifesaving Station.

Ferrante requested the Mayor and City Council approve the lease of public right of way in Somerset Plaza for Surf and Cycles bike store for bicycle rental use, Boardwalk Rentals for Segway mobility scooters and a new rental use of beach wheelchairs, and Coffee Crepes for tables and chairs. In addition, he sought the public use of a large chess set on Somerset Plaza and the use of lease payments to be applied towards special events on Somerset Plaza, which have all been approved in the past.

The only new request the OCDC recommended this year was to revise the downtown off the Boardwalk outdoor display permit to $100. According to Irwin, the current fee for outdoor display is $250 per year. The corporation believes a reduction in the fee would be fair and hopefully spur several businesses to use this provision. Last year, there were no new outdoor display standard requests in the downtown area off the Boardwalk, although several retail owners expressed an interest.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas was concerned over the regulations that would be included in the downtown off the Boardwalk outdoor display permit, such as noise, profanity and drugs. She asked for the permit requirements to be reviewed by the city’s Planning and Zoning Department before the council moved forward with that request.

The council voted to approve all of OCDC’s requests excluding the revision of the downtown off the Boardwalk outdoor display requirements permit.

“I think the OCDC has done what your mission statement was, what you started out to do and you are continuing to do it,” Mayor Rick Meehan said.