Ocean City Denies Corvette Weekend’s Fee Waiver Request

OCEAN CITY — Concerned about possibly setting a bad precedent, Ocean City officials this week denied a request from the Free State Corvette Club, arriving in the resort next week for the 30th year, to waive nearly $1,200 in fees for the special event.

The Mayor and Council on Monday had before them a request from the Free State Corvette Club to forgo roughly $1,200 in fees charged to the club by the resort associated with its OC Corvette Weekend event. This year will mark the 30th year for the club’s annual corvette weekend in Ocean City. The event includes a car show, road rally and Boardwalk parade.

Special Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell told the council on Monday the Free State Corvette Club had already received a 75-percent discount on the fees associated with equipment and labor provided by the town for the event, but was seeking a waiver for the $1,190 in fees still remaining. The Free State Corvette Club was also seeking a waiver from the parking fees for as many as 50 of the club’s members at the Inlet parking lot, who often have to run back and forth to different special events associated with the overall OC Corvette Weekend.

According to Ocean City’s stated policy, non-profit organizations based in Worcester County that hold various fundraising events in the resort are exempt from certain fees. The Free State Corvette Club is not based locally and therefore subjected to the full amount of the fees prescribed in the special event policy.

However, because the club has brought its event to Ocean City each fall for 30 years, and perhaps more importantly, because of all of the charitable work it does throughout the state, OC Corvette Weekend Chairman Wyatt Greenwalt made the waiver pitch.

Greenwalt pointed out the club has donated three quarters of a million dollars to various charities across the state over the years including the Spinal Bifida Association of Maryland, the USO, the Heroes on the Water program and a handful of others.

“To keep our donations at a maximum, I am requesting the council waive the fees associated with private events,” he said. “It would greatly benefit all of our recipients.”

Greenwalt pointed to the Heroes on the Water program as an example. Through the program, injured veterans are provided with kayaks to enjoy the state’s waterways, relax and recuperate from injuries. Greenwalt said simply waiving the $1,100-plus in fees could greatly help that program.

“The kayaks cost $500 each,” he said. “So, the $1,190 waiver in fees we’re asking for would pay for two of them this year alone.”

Greenwalt pointed out the program’s economic contributions to the resort’s shoulder season economy over the years. According to Ocean City’s fairly new Return on Investment (ROI) policy for special events, the Corvette weekend draws 1,500 participants and another 2,000 spectators for a total attendance of over 3,500. The ROI predicts nearly $613,000 in direct spending associated with the event, resulting in an estimated $18,000 in tax revenue.

“Our attendees are coming from 19 states this year and that says a lot about Ocean City,” said Greenwalt. “This is a real benefit for your community. There will be thousands of people coming to Ocean City for this event.”

While acknowledging the event’s contributions both to charities and Ocean City’s bottom line on an October weekend, resort officials were not ready to grant the fee waiver request over concerns it could open the door for similar requests from other groups.

“This might set a precedent for other non-profits and I’m not sure we want to go down that road,” said Council President Lloyd Martin. “Some have already come in with similar requests and we’ve had to turn them down. We’re trying to relieve the burden for our taxpayers.”

However, Mayor Rick Meehan said the event’s track record in Ocean City for three decades merited at least a consideration of the fee waiver.

“I’m a believer in looking at things on a case-by-case basis and I look at this event coming to Ocean City for 30 years,” he said. “This is not a new group and this is not a new event. I see what they do with these funds. I think there is an exception to every rule and I think 30 years merits this request.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman said both points were valid.

“I hear both sides and it’s a difficult one for me because this is a great event,” he said. “The other side is, if we do this for one, it would be an uphill battle from here on out. A lot of work went into this policy, and if we deviate from the policy we’d be doing a disservice to the taxpayers.”

After considerable debate, the council voted unanimously to deny the fee waiver request. By way of compromise, the council did grant the request to waive the parking fees for event workers who move back and forth from the Inlet parking lot so they don’t have to pay each time they come and go.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.