Voices From The Readers

Zoning Policies Questioned

(The following letter was addressed to Ocean City Council President Lloyd Martin with a copy forwarded to this publication.)

We would like to ask the Council about your policies on zoning. We have been officially informed of a zoning hearing. Although we are not in favor of approving this appeal, our concern for the council is more a procedural one. We spoke in January about this and you were kind enough to suggest looking into the history of this law and the number of appeals that have been granted but we have not heard back from you.

In January an appeal was filled and subsequently dropped requesting a special exception to the 32-foot setback. Now another appeal has been filed with the new owner, Mr. Sibony of the Hampton House, at 407 Atlantic.

It is my understanding that the Tidelands, next to the property in question, was allowed a variance to build closer than the 32-foot setback from the Boardwalk specified in the current zoning. Maybe it was ‘grandfathered in”. I’m not aware of the history. Now the property next door formally the Hampton House is being renovated and the owner, Mr. Sibony, is requesting an exception to the 32-foot setback as well. He would like a 20-foot setback for the first floor and 25-foot setback for floors 2-5. If this is allowed you would be setting a strong precedence.

El Capitan Condo at 401 Atlantic was built in good faith in the 70’s on the specified 32-foot set-back by the current building codes. If this appeal is allowed and the precedents is set, the Hampton property as well as the, The Lambros Apartments the last building on the block (next to our building) will be rebuilt, and allowed to build 20 feet from the boardwalk and probably taller like the Tidelands proposed 8 stories blocking our view and affecting our property value.

We don’t know if this will be approved and even if it is, we would appreciate it if the council would look into a couple things for us to help others in the future.

Why are zoning hearings not scheduled to accommodate the people involved? We were given, at best and according to policy just a 14 days’ notice and with only one property owner residing locally, it makes it very difficult to attend. As our building is directly affected, I think we should have been made aware of this sooner and in time to arrange for a strong representation.

As absentee owners and representative of the vast majority of tax payers, I think we should be given more time. Our property taxes and the taxes we collect on our rentals play a significant role in supporting the city and yet we are given little consideration for our unique situation.

If a zoning hearing is only a formality, why have them? Wouldn’t it serve the community better to change the laws to reflect the current times like the new skateboard law? If this set-back code is now not serving the community, and changed with every appeal, why not change the code? My thinking is that it was set up for a reason but conducting a hearing that no one knows about or can arrange time to attend is far too expensive and troublesome for both the city and the citizens.

Why does Ocean City consistently recognize the beauty of the green space in front of El Capitan (awarding the Beauty Spot three out of four years running) and then even consider another concreted retail space on our block? How will we ever be able to compete with Virginia Beach with its landscaped boardwalk, as an example if the very codes that were set to make the boardwalk a pleasant place to stroll are ignored for the prospect of more sales tax. I think we need to see the bigger picture.

We obviously do not want the appeal to go through but would like the council to look into the code and the way the planning department processes the appeals. We know you have the interest of the community at heart.

Janice and Paul Scott
Ocean City

Common Core Concerns

(The following letter was addressed to the Worcester County Board of Education with a copy sent to this publication.)

I wish to share my concerns about the Common Core Standards (CC).

The Md. State Dept. of Education (MSDE) adopted the standards virtually unseen, untested and with no cost analysis. There was no parental or legislative input and this adoption will change our education system in Maryland forever. One has to ask why the No. 1 rated school system in the country adopted the CC Standards when MSDE’s own gap analysis indicated that 88% of CC Math & 89% of CC English match current Maryland standards. This 12% differential will cost Marylanders millions if not billions of dollars in the years to come.

For example, Worcester County will receive $1.1 million from a federal program called “Race to the Top” and the cost to implement this program is estimated to be $5.1 million.

Common Core may not even be improving Maryland education standards and may possibly be dumbing them down. But we don’t know this because the standards have never been tested. As a matter of fact, the mandated assessment tests are not even completed. But it’s not about the standards. The standards are irrelevant. Even if the standards were perfect this is still a bad idea.

By adopting the CC standards, the citizens and the state have given up a tremendous amount of autonomy to unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups.

As you are aware, the CC standards are owned by two private trade organizations, who copywrote them and issued a limitation of liability excusing them of any harm as a result of using the standards. In adopting the standards, the state obligated itself to adopt CC word for word. You can’t change any of it. You can add 15% but that 15% won’t be tested.

Former Maryland State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick recently stated, “The state and University face compliance with the new national Common Core standards, which is a national curriculum for the school systems. No longer are education initiatives developed state by state, but through a model similar to European countries.”

Not to mention the legal aspects of a national curriculum. I do not want our schools adopting a national curriculum and I certainly don’t want our educational system modeled after Europeans countries.

Dr. Wilson & school board members, you have my sympathy. You weren’t asked for your input on adopting CC but are left trying to implement it. Most people haven’t even heard of Common Core and since they’re paying for it, they need to be informed. I respectfully request that the School Board hold scheduled public informational meetings so the people can get an idea of what CC is about, what changes will take place and an opportunity to ask questions. Common Core should not be a political issue. The issue should be, what’s best for our children.

Thank you
Fran Gebhart

Town On Verge Of
Being Anti-Business

With one stroll down Main Street and the streets off of Main, I fell in love with the Town of Berlin and knew I wanted to make my home here. Several years have passed and it has been a pleasure to watch the growth of the town and what it offers to residents and visitors. Our visitors come from near and distant places. Their reactions to Berlin reflect my own impressions when first visiting the shops, restaurants and the park.

Now, however, it has come to my attention that a certain segment of the town population has made it seem as though they would like to see things revert to the “good old days.” There are a few people, some with influence, who seem to continually find faults particularly with the business community. Instead of approaching a business owner in person to discuss a grievance and try to resolve the problem they perceive with that business, they create situations that are divisive and engender discontent among our tax-paying and quite respectable businesses and the people they employ.

Frankly, I don’t understand the motivations of these few. Is it simply a desire to force their views on the entire town, politically motivated or just to cause constant upheaval? Have they thought through the impact of harassing businesses to the point that they leave town, taking with them the taxes they contribute, the portion of the utility costs they support, jobs, and the revenue that our visitors bring to this beautiful and unique historic town?

Hopefully, all of us will think about what we value about the Town of Berlin and find a way to solve issues in a way that honors the great heritage of the town and the progress that we continue to make.

Carolyn Connelly

Paid Parking Proposal
Well the topic of extending paid parking has come up again.

This will be the third time in two years I have suggested a fair remedy and hopefully someone in City Hall will read it this time and actually give it some consideration.

My proposal would be to add parking meters to all the oceanside and first block of bayside streets from 130th to 146th streets.

This would make the people coming into town for the day from Delaware (where there is no free beach parking) help pay for the needs here in OC.

Why should the day trippers be allowed to come into OC and use our facilities while parking for free?

There could be parking permits issued to all the home owners in the upper end so they would not have to feed the meters. This could easily be accomplished by sending out three permits per household with the property tax bills.

I’m sure over the course of a summer much additional revenue would be collected. Hopefully, this time someone will consider this option.

Len Bender
Ocean City