Council Too Sensitive To Exaggerated Concerns

A young businessman hoping to start a parasail operation in north Ocean City was victimized by local politics last month when he was told by the Mayor and Council he could not operate in the resort.

The council’s decision contradicted the Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission’s unanimous ruling to give certified United States Coast Guard Captain Joshua Farr a one-year conditional approval of his proposed parasail business, which would essentially involve him operating a 28-foot boat from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. out of the 117th Street bayside canal.

In reaching its opinion, the commission looked past concerns from neighbors who are worried about the impacts the commercial boat operation will have on their quality of life. Surely, these are understandable concerns from the surrounding residents to the south of the canal, but commission members, who are appointed by City Council members, was right when it took them into account and still voted for the operation.

Unfortunately, City Council members, elected every four years by the citizens, decided the property owners’ concerns were valid enough to dismiss the operation outright without even giving him a chance to prove them wrong.

The sad truth here is this was simply a result of the familiar game of small town politics. The council did not want to upset a group of residents who decide their political fate every four years and subsequently a young businessman’s new business was doomed.

This move makes the council look anti-business at a time when the resort could use some more commercial operations. In particular, the Ocean City Square, which would have housed the business side of the parasail operation, could have used the new commercial presence since it’s currently operating at a reported 80 percent capacity.

A case-by-case approach is always necessary in government, and this ideology does leave officials open to appearing hypocritical at times. That seems to be the case here, as the council has previously given much more suspect businesses a chance.

The council should have allowed this business one year to see if it was as much of a menace as residents feared. We think even if there were complaints Farr would have addressed them and ultimately not been the nuisance and disturbance residents alleged. The council was wrong to deny him the opportunity.

Over the last half century, Ocean City has been built on entrepreneurial dreams of commercial success, and the council was wrong to squash this man’s vision without even giving him a chance to address his doubters.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.