OCEAN CITY — A debate last week at the police commission level about tweaking the resort’s trailer parking ordinance enforcement spilled over to the Mayor and Council this week but was ultimately sent back to the drawing board with no action taken.
As part of the ongoing effort to rein in some of the behavior associated with the vehicle-related special events in the resort, the Mayor and Council passed an ordinance regarding trailer and oversized vehicle parking on city streets. After considerable debate, the final product included ban on all trailer and oversized vehicle parking on Baltimore Avenue and a registration policy for trailer parking on all other streets in the resort.
The ordinance allows only those participants registered with the special events to acquire a sticker permitting them to park on certain side streets throughout the resort. Unregistered participants were directed instead to the Park-and-Ride in West Ocean City or certain private parking lots with the permission of the owner.
For the most part, the new trailer ordinance achieved the desired results in its first year, but resort officials are now considering possible tweaks with another special events season looming. Like the smoking ban ordinance, for example, the first year was considered a learning curve and police used discretion in issuing $250 tickets in the first year.
Also like the smoking ban ordinance, some resort officials advocate for stricter enforcement in the second year now that everyone is presumably aware of the law change, while others are pushing for continued discretion before issuing the $250 tickets.
After considerable debate on Monday, the council ultimately opted to send the issue back to the police commission for further discussion.
During Monday’s meeting, some flaws in the ordinance were pointed out. For example, Councilman Tony DeLuca said the ordinance in some cases unfairly targeted contractors and businesses working in the resort and suggested that those businesses could be exempt by acquiring a sticker denoting them as working trailers.
“Last year, this worked,” he said. “We did have a few complaints, but most of the complaints were about working trailers for landscaping companies and contractors, for example. I think some signage for working trailers would solve that.”
Another common issue was the timeline for special events participants for getting the stickers. In some cases, event participants might arrive late on a Friday and go to the event on a Saturday morning to get their stickers. In between, they found they were getting ticketed and fined before they were able to get the appropriate paperwork.
In other extreme examples, event participants would park their trailers on the street and then get their sticker, only to find they had been ticketed and fined in the half an hour or so it took to obtain the sticker. Councilman Wayne Hartman said those were examples when the ordinance could be tweaked with a grace period or discretion from police officers.
“The ultimate goal of improved safety was achieved,” he said. “Last week at the police commission, we heard a lot of people were getting ticketed while they are getting their paperwork. If we can fix that, we can make this better.”
However, just as he did last week at the police commission level, Hartman advocated for strict enforcement of the ordinance and less police discretion. It was an argument heard often Monday during a larger debate on the smoking ordinance.
“Now, we’re talking about changing this again,” he said. “Throughout the debate on the smoking ban enforcement, we were talking about consistency. Let’s get some consistency for ourselves.”
Councilman Dennis Dare said there was a fine line between strict enforcement and common sense, especially in cases where event participants were in the process of acquiring the appropriate permits and stickers.
“I did experience some very angry people who parked their trailer, went down to get their sticker, came back and had been ticketed,” he said. “I don’t want a person to have a bad experience because they were ticketed and fined while they were doing the right thing and getting the sticker.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said that problem could be solved by the event promoters issuing the stickers at the time of registration.
“In a lot of cases, the stickers can be sent out in advance of the event by the promoter,” he said. “I think that would solve some of the problems. You learn something every time you do something like this.”
Hartman said the ordinance needed more tweaking and suggested it be sent back to the police commission for further debate.
“I think we need to resolve some of these things,” he said. “We did a good job with this last year, but I think we can improve it this year. The ordinance is not perfect and it needs to be improved.”