OCEAN CITY – For the last couple of years, city officials have promised action to ease concerns over vehicular events in Ocean City, and a first step is the Police Commission proposing recommended changes to city laws.
The most recent event to worry residents was Cruisin, which hit Ocean City in May with 3,400 classic cars officially registered for the event and thousands more unaffiliated with it. While the officially registered participants appeared to be well behaved for the most part and attended the event’s official activities at the Inlet and Roland E. Powell Convention Center, the uninvited groups raced up and down Coastal Highway and other streets, dumped trash in parking lots and left a considerable amount of rubber on the roads.
Cruisin has become one of the biggest weekends of the year in Ocean City, according to promoter and organizer Bob Rothermel and many business owners. While local residents bristled at the steady roar of the hot rod engines and the consequences of the large convergence, special events drive the economy in Ocean City, especially in the shoulder seasons. Balancing them with the quality of life has always been a challenge.
Immediately following last year and this year’s events complaints were heard loud from residents demanding changes. The same was reported after last fall’s VW/Audi event, which will return the first weekend of October.
The Police Commission on Monday morning reviewed proposed ordinance changes that would add additional “tools to the toolbox” when it comes to spectators and the damage they cause.
City Solicitor Guy Ayres looked to Myrtle Beach, S.C. and provided copies of laws that relate to the issues Ocean City has been experiencing.
The first proposed change would be to a chapter of Ocean City’s code titled “Offenses and Miscellaneous Provisions.”
“It will be a violation for any business license holder to permit, enable or allow the consumption of or possession in an open container of alcoholic beverage in the parking areas, and the commission or omission of the license holder that allows the unlawful activity constitutes the act of maintaining or contributing to a public nuisance, and the license shall be subject to business license revocation,” the proposed ordinance states. “The employment of security personnel with the posting of signage, or proof of providing written or oral warning of the prohibition to the guests prior to summoning law enforcement, shall create a presumption of compliance with the law by the business license holder.”
Regarding municipal sponsored events, the council can allow possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages at municipal sponsored events and municipal permitted special events on public property and municipal parking lots subject to restrictions and conditions the Mayor and City Council impose.
The commission was in consensus to add here, “…and with approval of a permit of the Board of License Commissioners.”
If in violation, the ordinance calls for a penalty of a municipal infraction. However, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Capt. Kevin Kirstein recommended a municipal misdemeanor. He explained an infraction calls for the issuance of a ticket while a misdemeanor allows for a citation and hearing and/or arrest.
“I support it. This is to address a problem that has been a growing concern, and has been causing issues with our police department as far as enforcement regarding overflow into the streets and right-of-ways during specific events,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “The intent of this is also to notify those who have private parking lots that is required parking that those lots are for that specific purpose and not for the consumption of alcohol or for a party to be set up.”
The next change would be made to an article of same chapter in regards to destruction of required landscaping and parking.
Destructive use is defined as “the congregation, loitering or lingering of persons, or the placement of tents, trailers, structures, cooking devices, chairs, tables, coolers or other objects on or in a required landscaped area in disturbance or damage of the plants or area.”
Public nuisance use of a parking area is defined as “the creation or maintenance of impromptu, unmanaged outdoor events or parties, to set up, place or use tents, trailers, structures, cooking devices, chairs, tables, coolers or other objects from which to sell, dispense, cook, prepare, serve, distribute or consume any food or beverage, object or product; or to broadcast amplified music from vehicles or other devices; or the use of tents, trailers, structures, cooking devices, chairs, tables, coolers or other objects for congregational purposes that prevent the use of the parking area for its intended purpose.”
The ordinance states security resources must be hired to prevent destruction to landscaped areas, as well as prevent the public nuisance of required parking areas. They would be in violation if they are found encouraging or allowing destructive use of required landscaping, as well as if any person engages in the destructive use of required landscaping.
“However, that such events that are specifically permitted through legislative or administrative action, or sponsored by the business license holder, or other entity or person owning or maintaining a required landscape area or parking area in compliance with regulations governing such outdoor events are not included,” the ordinance includes.
Kirstein recommended a waiver be granted to the business license holder, person or entity, as well as those found in violation be penalized with a municipal misdemeanor.
“It sounds like they can waive themselves. If they want a waiver, they should have to come to the Mayor and City Council, and not just decide to use their landscaped area because it is their event,” he said.
The destruction of landscaping has been an issue for some time, the mayor said.
“It is a nuisance that there are situations where landscaping is being destroyed, and the property owner is certainly not guilty when it is somebody that just decided to sit there,” he said. “Code requires landscaping, and property owners are responsible for maintaining that landscaping. In order to receive an occupancy permit, you have to have that landscaping and keep it maintained, and we see a lot of cases where it has been damaged or destroyed. It needs to be addressed as it has caused problems for our department and with the general public.”
The final ordinance change in regards to vehicular events would change the chapter titled, “Traffic and Vehicles.”
The amendment would define a trailer as, “A vehicle that has no motive power, is designed to carry people or property and be towed by a motor vehicle, and is constructed so that no part of its weight rests on the towing vehicle.”
The ordinance would prohibit any oversized vehicle or trailer to be parked on any municipal parking lot, public street, alley or any public way within the corporate limits of Ocean City from May 1 through Oct. 31., except for trailers used for transporting construction materials and equipment for an active site.
“The purpose of this is because our streets during certain events become overcrowded with trailers causing traffic hazards, especially along Baltimore Ave. Originally when these events started there were a lot less trailers but now they are all over the streets including residential areas and it has caused concern,” Meehan said.
The commission was in consensus to move the proposed ordinance changes forward to the full council for approval with the recommended changes.