OCEAN CITY – Deliberations to modify enforcement efforts associated with Ocean City’s trailer ordinance came to a standstill at this week’s Police Commission meeting after disagreements about police discretion arose.
In this week’s Police Commission meeting, City Manager Doug Miller approached members for suggestions or recommendations with regard to the town’s trailer ordinance, which was introduced to the public last year.
Currently, the ordinance requires registered participants of vehicle-related events to purchase a $50 permit to park oversized trailers along certain streets. Its purpose was to address parking obstructions that caused tension among residents in years past. The owners or operators of trailers must either comply with the ordinance, find another parking alternative or face a fine of $250.
Although Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said the town would continue to enforce the ordinance along Baltimore Avenue, Miller asked for feedback from the Police Commission about continued enforcement along the side streets and the $250 fine.
In extreme cases last year, officials said a few participants left their trailers to pick up the required pass and were fined $250 in their absence, ultimately exposing some issues to enforcing the ordinance at hand.
Councilwoman Mary Knight asked about the possibility of a grace period, which would allow the owner or operator of a trailer a certain amount of time to either acquire a permit or move the vehicle. She explained that some participants traveling to the car-related events arrive in the late evening hours and cannot acquire the necessary permits until the next morning. In other instances, like the one noted above, participants leave their trailers parked on side streets to pick up their documentation.
“It would be on a case-by-case basis,” Buzzuro responded. “If there is a reasonable explanation, we will take that into consideration.”
Councilman Dennis Dare, chair of the commission, expressed his own desires to see the town either implement warnings prior to a citation or lower the fine to $100. Yet, Buzzuro explained that there are limited resources, particularly during those busy weekends, to monitor the warnings or number of hours a trailer remains in one location.
“For us, this is a very busy, taxing and challenging weekend for us,” Buzzuro said. “This is just one of many other responsibilities that we have.”
Councilman Wayne Hartman expressed concerns about the warnings, which he said would defeat the purpose of the ordinance, but agreed to consider reducing the fine to $100.
“I understand reducing the fine to $100 and then reassessing the fine every 24 hours,” he said, “but that seems like a lot of extra work for you.”
Hartman proposed keeping enforcement along side streets and the $250 fine unchanged for another year.
“I don’t understand why we are rushing to change something,” he said. “Last year, we got the message out. Let’s see what happens this year and then if things get better, the next year we can change it.”
Dare, however, explained that the enforcement efforts needed fine-tuning.
“I’ve learned enough last year,” Dare said. “I think we need to give the police discretion to enforce this. The point was made last year.”
Knight made a motion to recommend lowering the fine to $100 and giving police officers discretion to enforce the ordinance on side streets.
“I would like to see it lowered to $100,” she said. “Two hundred fifty dollars is a lot of money. It really is.”
Hartman declined to second the motion, explaining his disagreements with police discretion.
“To me, this is pretty black and white, and I don’t see anything discretionary with parking,” he said.
The motion ultimately failed, but a full report on the discussion will go on to the full Mayor and Council.