Housing Issues Lead OC To Bring Back Committee

OCEAN CITY – The Property Review and Enforcement Strategies for Safe-housing (PRESS) Committee will be reconvening soon to address mounting housing concerns.

With the number of summer rentals at its peak, various town departments have joined forces to address property issues related to noise, sanitation, overcrowding and building code violations.

The PRESS Committee is a group of town officials authorized to address communitywide quality of life issues.

The group, consisting of members from the police, building, zoning, fire marshal and finance departments, functions as a task force designed to meet regularly and discuss civil and criminal code violations within the community.

“The committee identifies problems in a coordinated manner and responds with pro-active enforcement,” Planning and Community Development Assistant Director Blaine Smith said.  “Our main goal is to ensure the safety of residents and visitors by making sure structures and living conditions are code compliant.  In all, we are working together to assure Ocean City remains a livable community for residents.”

In an effort to hold properties to a high standard and ensure code compliance, city agencies issue citations for various violations, including repeated violations of overcrowding, fire and life safety, noise, and other housing violations.

PRESS members are hopeful that addressing complaints on a case-by-case basis will improve living conditions for residents and renters. In addition, the committee aims to improve structure and esthetics of buildings within the community.

According to Planner Bob Nelson, who sits on the committee, PRESS was formed over 10 years ago but was disbanded for an unknown reason.

“It was reformed as of this summer due to mounting concerns from various town departments. There is so much information that we need to share that it would probably be the best thing to reform the committee to discuss these detailed issues, so we can get the whole story out to each of us and offer a better solution. That is coming from people in the field, such as the license inspector and the police force who see issues on a daily basis and report to us what they found,” Nelson said. “We are going to get together and stay together, so we are aware of all issues and nothing gets out of control, and nobody makes a wrong decision in how to enforce it.”

The PRESS Committee encourages all community members to report properties that they feel may be in violation of a safety, building or health code. Citizens with complaints or concerns are asked to contact Blaine Smith, Assistant Director of Planning and Community Development at 410-289-8855.

Recent complaints of overcrowded and rowdy rentals in Ocean City’s single-family housing districts brought before city officials in recent months is just one of the reasons PRESS regrouped, Nelson said.

“Now that we are in the group, there are so many other issues in listening to the license inspector, police and fire marshal that are out there, there needs to be a committee because it is becoming enough of an issue that we can’t ignore it,” he said.

A public hearing will be held before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Aug. 19 to address rentals in single-family neighborhoods.