Citizens Add Input To OC Strategic Planning Effort

OCEAN CITY – As part of the ongoing strategic planning process, the Mayor and City Council invited approximately 70 citizens to participate in a summit to receive input on goals and initiatives moving Ocean City into the future.

For the past couple of months, the Mayor and City Council and city staff have gone through several rounds of interviews and workshops to narrow down a Strategic Planning Model that outlines a vision describing the preferred future of Ocean City over the next 15 years, as well as a mission statement and many projects planned to start this year and into the years to come.

The citizens were divided into several groups as the Mayor and City Council floated from group to group to observe and interact with the stakeholders.

“I thought they were in pretty good spirits last night, and their energy level was maintained during the whole time … and you guys [council] did a good job listening,” Lyle Sumek, president of Lyle Sumek Associates, Inc., said at the Mayor and City Council workshop the following morning.

Sumek was pleased the citizens reiterated the wants and needs for Ocean City that the Mayor and City Council have put down on paper throughout the process.

“There were not a lot of surprises last night. They [citizens] really reaffirmed … the direction and vision of where you [the council] want to take the community,” he said.

According to Sumek, the citizens listed the OC Air Show, the Dew Tour, Hurricane Sandy response, Light Up Downtown, the hiring of City Manager David Recor, the new Mayor and City Council elected in 2012’s municipal election, the new Center for the Arts, the St. Louis Ave. reconstruction project, a low tax rate, the Roland E. Powell Convention Center expansion and the Boardwalk renovation as Ocean City’s many recent successes.

The citizens also listed many reasons why they have made Ocean City their home, such as safety, a casual lifestyle, cleanliness, bay and ocean connection, beaches, small-town feeling, schools, business friendly, overall friendly, having friends and developing friends, programs at Northside Park and the Boardwalk.

What struck Sumek during the summit were all of the groups listed “livable neighborhoods” as a top three priority for Ocean City.

“The importance of neighborhoods last night was a strong theme throughout the teams,” he said. “That was a striking comment, and comments about their neighborhoods, why they live here, why they came here to live, and how neighborhoods have a sense of identity here.”

By the end of the summit, citizens were asked to submit initiatives the Mayor and Council should specifically work towards into the future.

The following were a few comments Sumek read out loud:

•    Share seasonal police between Ocean City and Florida, six months here and six months there.

•    Streamline the permitting process.
•    Have more changing stations and showers for day trippers.
•    Bring back RV parking.
•    New business development.

•    Underground the utilities on the St. Louis project and get rid of utility poles.

•    Please remove all parking meters and never discuss them again.

•    Off the boardwalk downtown needs redevelopment, it has been in the plans for years.

•    Downtown parking needs to be addressed.

•    Replace the month of June to a family-friendly cultural month to encourage arts and music. 70 percent of crime is in the summer months, mostly in the month of June.

•    Keep the citizens of Ocean City involved.

•    Growth management- re-build commercial base and residential base to encourage more year-round businesses.

•    Modernize the city internet technology with Wi-Fi everywhere and for everyone. Use social media more effectively.

•    Please seek big name sponsors for special events, such as Sunfest and Winterfest.

•    Brainstorm and plan concerts to bring in big draws in winter and spring to make Ocean City more of a year-round resort.

•    Do away with unions.

•    Do what it takes to stand strong against the expansion of the casino and its intrusion on Ocean City.

•    Tap into the opinions of younger people and step away from the good old boy mentality. Look towards more revitalization, and being more culturally diverse. Create an environment that the council is accessible to young professionals. They are the future of this town for the next 15 years.

•    Investigate building a bikeway and jog way path along the dunes and remove bikes from Coastal Highway.

•    Keep making Ocean City a showcase town and keep Ocean City affordable for year-rounders.