Council Nixes Scooter Operator’s Exception Request

OCEAN CITY – Following through on enforcing the newly established rules and regulations for the scooter rental industry, the City Council told a rental operator this week he must find the appropriate training space by today or close for business.

At Tuesday’s Mayor and Council meeting, Yehuda Peretz of Island Cycles, located on Somerset Street downtown, requested the council approve the temporary use of a portion of Dorchester Street for scooter training.

The requirement that scooter rental operators have to provide a training area was established in early May when the council approved a list of new rules and regulations to be placed on the industry to ensure safety as the number of scooter accidents increased in town.

“We have been practicing on Dorchester Street for the last 12 years,” Peretz said. “Within your rules and regulations, we would have to find a private property and we cannot find private property downtown.”

Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) Executive Director Glenn Irwin submitted that the OCDC Board of Directors is supportive of Island Cycles’ request to use a portion of Dorchester Street, east of Baltimore Ave, as its scooter training area up to Dec. 31, 2012, at which point another training area must be located in order to continue its operation.

Irwin added that the OCDC is adamant that scooter training must not occur on Somerset Plaza since it is a pedestrian walkway.

“Mr. Peretz has operated a good business on Somerset Street and the problem he has is a unique situation … we know he needs to find a place to train but for this season, being on short notice and being the summer time here, we feel that this one-time opportunity for Dorchester Street is a place where he could train for this year,” OCDC President Todd Ferrante said.

Ocean City Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith pointed out the recently passed law “prohibits the use of public property or rights of way for training purposes unless they receive permission from the Mayor and City Council.”

Smith added that currently Island Cycles does not have an approved training area as required and will have to locate a space before its business license is renewed by June 1.

During Tuesday afternoon’s meeting, Smith said about three quarters of the scooter rental industry are now in compliance with the training area requirement, and the others are working to come up with alternative methods that do not include a public right of way.

“I think all of them will be able to do that except for this one,” Smith said.

Councilman Lloyd Martin was in favor of Peretz’s request, agreeing that the law did not provide enough time to comply and made a motion to approve Dorchester Street as a training space for Island Cycles for one year.

“It’s not the operator,” Martin said. “It’s the people driving the scooters we have the problem with. The practice area shows you they can drive, but it doesn’t mean they are going to drive that way out on the street.”

Councilman Brent Ashley agreed with Martin.
“I am not going to vote to put somebody out of business,” he said.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas asserted she was surprised with the OCDC’s approval and the comments made.

“Sir, this is not short notice, you have known about this for months,” she said to Peretz.

Pillas added that Island Cycles has the most accidents on record.

“I think this is very poor business of the government to allow very good operators who are trying their best, some have already given up their locations because they do not fit into the regulations now and for us to allow you to do this I think is an injustice,” she said.

The request was rejected by a 3-4 vote with Council members Joe Hall, Doug Cymek, Mary Knight and Pillas in opposition.