Ocean City Moves Building Permit Valuation To $5K

OCEAN CITY – This week the Mayor and City Council approved unanimously a lengthy list of ordinances on first reading as well as a couple of resolutions.

Last week City Engineer Terry McGean approached the council to discuss the possibility of increasing the valuation of construction that requires a building permit. McGean’s original recommendation was setting the value at $5,000 but after discussing the idea with the town’s Chief Building Official Kevin Brown and the Fire Marshal’s office he cut the number in half, setting it at $2,500.

“We use a fairly strict interpretation of the building code in what kind of work requires a permit,” McGean said last week. “Basically what we say is nonstructural work requires a permit if it is more than $1,500, this valued base conception is fairly unique.”

In the past year, the town has processed approximately 150 non-structural permits for a project valued at less than $5,000, charging $75 each for permits, totaling $11,250 in fees. After some manpower estimates for the work and given the time it takes to process, review and inspect the minor projects, McGean concluded the town is losing money in the permit process.

As the value increase was approached in resolution form this week, Councilman Doug Cymek said he thought McGean’s original suggestion of $5,000 was the right idea.

“Being in the trade, I think that $5,000 is probably a more appropriate number,” Cymek said. “We are talking about losing about $11,000 worth of revenue from these permits and probably costing two or three times that in costs related to taking the permits and doing the inspections and so forth.”

Cymek added that working with a reduced staff the problem comes down to the town enforcing building permits.

“I just think it is better allocation of the manpower,” he said as he set the motion to increase the valuation of building permits to $5,000.

Another ordinance discussed was to amend the city code involving solid waste, making the importation of trash unlawful.

The ordinance states, it shall be unlawful for any person to throw, deposit, release, or discharge any refuse or trash in, or next to a private container or other private property other than the owner or persons authorized by the property owner. The Solid Waste Division will post private containers with a notice warning of this article and littering.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres said the violation would be considered a municipal infraction setting the fine up to $500.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas is concerned the ordinance will discourage others from cleaning up city streets and beaches.

“I don’t think there is a perfect ordinance,” Mayor Rick Meehan responded. “I think we need to use a little bit of common sense. I don’t think you’re going to have property owners out there watching to make sure somebody doesn’t throw a little bag into their dumpsters.”

Council President Jim Hall said the key word is “importation” of trash. The ordinance is more focused on those traveling into town dumping large quantities of trash into private dumpsters without permission.

Other items approved by the council this week included an ordinance to amend building regulations, which included shortening the time frame a construction project is to be completed from 180 days to 120 days and limiting the number of extensions given to two with additional extensions having to be approved by the Mayor and City Council.

Next was an ordinance amending the hiring process of the Fire Marshal. The current code allows for the Fire Prevention Commission to submit recommended names for the position to the mayor for appointment and is voted on by the council. It excludes the city fire chief, the city manager, and the normal employee hiring/promoting and succession planning process.

Fire Chief Larmore has made numerous progressive changes in updating and consolidating the three divisions of Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company, Fire/EMS, and the Office of the Fire Marshal, under one organizational structure of the Ocean City Fire Department in the last few years.

Consequently, Laramore recommended to the Mayor and City Council to have the hiring of the fire marshal to fall under the same organization. The ordinance allows for the selection of the fire marshal to fall under the fire chief, city manager and the Mayor and City Council.

An ordinance amending zoning allowing public utilities as a conditional use in the R-2A district was also approved after a favorable recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission to allow the Delmarva Power and Light Utility Company (DP&L) to expand into residential territory in order to provide enough energy to meet the area’s demand. The electric substation is located between 136th and 137th streets. Four houses will be bought by DP&L in order to build the expansion.

The council did not hesitate to pass amendment number two to FY 2011’s budget recognizes higher than project revenues.

Finally a resolution was passed to establish bulk collection fees setting the cost for one item at $15, up to $25 for three items, and $5 extra for anything additional.