City Zoning Veteran Celebrated

City Zoning Veteran Celebrated

OCEAN CITY — Long-time Ocean City Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith was feted with a special retirement ceremony this week at City Hall.

Smith worked for Ocean City back in 1969 to 1971, but left to pursue private sector endeavors. He returned in 1985 when he was hired as the zoning administrator at a time of remarkable growth and for the next 31 years helped shape the resort into the vibrant community it has become, according to Mayor Rick Meehan.

“It was a time when Ocean City was growing and changing,” he said. “The residential areas were beginning to develop and there were a lot of different thoughts and feelings about how and where the town should grow. Zoning became the No. 1 issue of the day and Blaine was there to guide us through that because although there were differences in opinion, he had the respect of everybody in the room.”

Meehan said Smith spent countless hours at the podium during his career as zoning administrator in Ocean City, carefully explaining the intricacies and nuances of zoning codes, growth and development.

“In 1986, we were considering an ordinance to reduce density and there was a lot of contention, but Blaine was here at this podium to explain it,” he said. “In 1989, we were going through our first major comprehensive rezoning and there were a lot of struggles with that, but Blaine was very responsible for bringing everybody together and he helped create a better plan for Ocean City.”

Smith reviewed countless projects over the years to ensure they met the appropriate zoning requirements and more than a few times told developers to go back to the drawing board, according to Meehan.

“It hasn’t always been easy, but Blaine was able to navigate through it all,” he said. “Because of his integrity, honesty and respect, people accepted it when Blaine had to say no.”

Current Planning and Zoning Director Bill Neville said he cherished the time he has spent working with Smith.

“I consider this an honor and a privilege,” he said. “I’ve had the chance to learn from the master.”

Neville related the teachings of the rural philosopher Wendell Berry who wrote about creating a sense of place considering the land, the built environment and the people of the community. He said Smith had been able to accomplish that through his years as zoning administrator in Ocean City.

“You’ve been able to wrap those three things together over the years and make Ocean City a special and unique place,” he said.

Also during Tuesday’s retirement event for Smith, Meehan read into the record a letter from former Planning and Community Development Director Jesse Houston, who worked hand in hand with Smith for several years, along with a letter from local attorney Joe Moore, who has represented developers on countless projects in Ocean City over the decades and also worked closely with Smith. Another local developer, Jeff Thaler, praised Smith and said he spoke for the development community when he said the zoning administrator would be truly missed.

“It’s a great day for Blaine and his family, but for many of us, it’s a terrible day,” he said. “We’re all really going to miss you. We worked on nearly 100 projects with you over the years.”

For his part, Smith said he cherished his time in Ocean City and his role as part of a larger team in its growth over the years.

“We’ve been truly blessed in this community,” he said. “To be a part of that, even a small part, has been a blessing and all of it together works because we are a family. I think we’re in good hands. I’ll still be a part of this when I can, but it’s been a long journey.”

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.