Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Although last month’s primary election attracted just one in five voters to the polls, it was nonetheless a historic one in Worcester County.

For the first time in anyone’s memory, two candidates were deadlocked after all the votes were counted and ratified. Since there was no precedent for guidance, nobody essentially knew what to do, including the candidates as well as local election officials.

Eventually, the state’s Board of Elections instructed the Republican Central Committee to essentially decide the District 4 Republican primary winner with a committee vote, and Ted Elder prevailed. That was a wise course of action.

The decision sets up a rematch between Elder and incumbent Democrat Virgil Shockley for the District 4 County Commissioner seat. Shockley has previously twice defeated Elder, who like Shockley drives a bus for the county school system.

This past Fourth of July weekend was one of the strangest I can recall.

Within a period of 24 hours, Ocean City went from experiencing the minor effects of rain, wind and clouds from Hurricane Arthur on Friday morning to having sunny and warm conditions first thing Saturday morning that lasted through mid-week.

Once Arthur was a distant memory, the immediate concern among most turned to ocean conditions with fears that rip currents would be significant during one of the busy beach weekends of the summer season. Surprisingly, the ocean was relatively calm on Saturday and especially so on Sunday. Data from the Ocean City Beach Patrol confirms there was nothing of significance to report with the exception of an active day on Saturday on the preventative action front.

Although it always depends on what kind and size of business is being polled, most operators seemed to report this week that the holiday weekend was a banner one for sales. Most also acknowledge that the season got off to a much slower start than they would have liked and a strong July and August are critical to getting back on the pace they like to see. One operator even told me this week that no matter what happens in July and August his businesses will be down for the summer because they can’t make up for such a slow June, particularly during the weekdays when he had to cut service staff down to off-season levels for the first time in his 40-year history in Ocean City.

The idea that July and August need to be major months on the business front is obvious around here, but there does seem to be some sighs of relief that July at least got off to a booming start, particularly when considering how fortunate the area was compared to how some parts of the Outer Banks fared from Arthur.

The Ocean City Brewing Company has stormed onto the local business scene, and it’s been interesting to observe all that has taken place over the last year.

The fact is the relationship between the business and city officials is off to a rocky start.

First, there are the numerous comments made by brewery staff to another newspaper about a city employee allegedly drinking at the establishment while conducting an inspection and even arriving to the planned inspection drunk. City Manager David Recor has vehemently called those statements and others incorrect.

Additionally, Ocean City elected officials were conspicuous by their absence at a recent grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration held at the establishment. It’s important to note that at least one, and in most cases a few, elected officials attend these new opening celebrations and ribbon cutting affairs as a goodwill gesture.

Then came this week’s request to amend the Mayor and Council’s conditional use that was approved in the spring. The brewery wanted the council to revisit the conditional use and requested amendments to allow a silo to be erected outside and for reconsideration of a canning and bottling operation. The council rejected that in a divided 5-2 vote.

Councilman Dennis Dare was for the amendment and his comments seemed to touch on the sensitive nature of circumstances surrounding the brewery and reminded his colleagues and brewery critics what could happen if the operation is not a success.

“You have to be careful of what you wish for because there are alternatives that may be a lot worse than this for the neighborhood …,” the former city manager said. “If the owner of this property wanted to develop or sell it to a developer, they are not going to put a hardware store in. They are going to put condominiums in that go property line to property line and then all of a sudden you have 50 HVAC compressors lined up on the property line, and a 50-foot structure that shadows your swimming pool and blocks your view,” he said. “There is a lot at risk here and I think the operator needs to be a good neighbor and if he doesn’t we can withdraw the Conditional Use, so that allows me to support the commission.”

Whatever the case, I can’t recall a business getting off to a more inauspicious political start in Ocean City, and the time has come for heads to cool and for all parties to move on and focus on achieving success.