OC Council Gives Final Approval To Street Performer Changes

OC Council Gives Final Approval To Street Performer Changes
OC Council

OCEAN CITY – Boardwalk business owners turned out this week to praise the Mayor and City Council for the new street performer regulations taking effect next month.

The Town of Ocean City has been struggling with the proliferation of street performers on the Boardwalk for several years. A Boardwalk Task Force was created to specifically look into the growing concerns. After two public hearings over the winter, the task force’s recommendations were submitted to the Mayor and City Council and presented in an ordinance form.

On Monday evening, the ordinance came before the council for its second and final reading. The ordinance regulates street performers on the Boardwalk and will force buskers to sign up for designated locations from the Inlet to 9th Street.

The ordinance states, “The Town Clerk shall designate spaces on the Boardwalk between and including South 1st Street and 9th Street … will be available on a first-come, first-serve allocation and selection system for two periods of use; the first period shall be Monday through Thursday and the second period shall be Friday through Sunday … the Designated Spaces will be available for selection twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays one week in advance …”

Each designated space from the Inlet to 9th Street will be a maximum of 10 feet by 10 feet and a minimum of five feet by five feet, and a three-foot clear area around each fire hydrant must be maintained as well as a safe separation from the Boardwalk tram lane.

A list of rules and regulations governing performers and vendors on the entire Boardwalk from the Inlet to 27th Street is also included in the ordinance, such as a performer or vendor may mark the boundary of a space with a rope laid on the surface of the Boardwalk; no performer or vendor can have any item exceeding four feet above ground, allow any street end of designated space to be enclosed, or affix props or equipment to the Boardwalk surface; no performer or vendor occupying a location at a street end or designated space can leave items unattended for a period longer than 15 consecutive minutes; and a performer or vendor having selected a designated space or on street ends between 10th and 27th streets will have use of that area from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. during the week, and from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends.

During first reading a couple of weeks ago, Boardwalk performers asked for a few changes prior to the law’s final passage.

Painter/caricature artist Michael Moeller stated the limitation of equipment not to exceed four feet is unrealistic pointing out the height of an easel can exceed four feet.

Musician Alex Young asked the council on multiple occasions to consider extending the time restraint of playing music into the night.

This week City Solicitor Guy Ayres presented the ordinance in second reading reflecting changes addressing those concerns. The changes are increasing the height of props from four feet to five feet, performer or vendor having selected a designated space or on street ends between 10th and 27th streets will have use of that area from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. both during the week and on weekends, and the time period for designated spaces from the Inlet to 9th St. to be allocated is from May 1 to Sept. 30.

“It is important for people to understand that we have listened to all public comments not only during the public hearings before the Task Force but also before the council,” Councilman Wayne Hartman said.

Prior to the council casting its vote, many Boardwalk business owners came before them to give thanks.

Bruce Krasner, who owns several businesses on the Boardwalk, applauded the council and the members of the task force.

“I think you have created an environment that we all can live with. Given time it will run its due course and it will work out in the end. I was a strong opponent of not having any buskers at all, but coming to the realization that we can live together and work together I think this ordinance does that very well,” Krasner said.

Vikki Barrett of An Inn on the Ocean and the Ocean City Development Committee Boardwalk Committee was in favor of the ordinance being passed.

“I represent the merchants on the Boardwalk and their concerns about the balance of making money and paying as many expenses as they do in this city … and the buskers do none of that,” she said. “It has been difficult for the merchants to keep up with their expenses when some of the buskers are taking income from them. I think with the excellent job the task force did in working with the buskers I think they have come up with a very strong ordinance that is fair to everyone.”

Todd Ferrante of Park Place Jewelers applauded the vetting process.

“It was difficult process to go through but everybody did an outstanding job. This is something that is fair and equitable to all who are involved, and that is the key here,” he said.

OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin added “I too want to applaud the council and the Boardwalk Task Force. I do believe the buskers play a role in Ocean City’s Boardwalk. In the past couple of years, it had become different from before but I think the ordinance addresses many of those issues with the rotation to how many performers can be in one location … I know there will be some tweaking needed as time goes on but it is a good middle ground.”

Boardwalk Task Force member Bob Rothermel added, “It [Boardwalk] was the wild west out there on the most eastern walkway in Maryland. This is an attempt to provide balance. We can sit here and try to pick it apart but that is not what we need to do. We need to pass something that everybody can live by, and I encourage you to do that.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance, which goes into effect July 27.