OCEAN CITY — It remains to be seen if Dumser’s Dairyland’s current landlord will be successful appealing a Circuit Court decision to allow the town to ultimately remove the structure, but if the city assumes ownership, the iconic resort business will not be its tenant.
Earlier this year, a Worcester County Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the Town of Ocean City in a land ownership dispute over a building on the east side of the Boardwalk at South Division Street. The ownership of the land in which the historic building sits was called into question last year after a 50-year agreement reached in 1966 between the heirs of the original owner, Nathan Rapoport, and the Town of Ocean City expired.
As a result, the Rapoport heirs, known as Nathan Associates, are enjoined from any use of the property after Oct. 31 and the plaintiffs are required to remove or demolish the structure by Dec. 31.
Caught in the middle of the land ownership dispute is Dumser’s, which does not own the building, but merely leases it from the Rapoport heirs, just as it has done for decades.
Nathan Associates, the Rapoport heirs, are preparing an appeal of the Worcester County Circuit Court decision in hopes of retaining ownership of the historic building. Meanwhile, as the expected appeal runs its course, the future of Dumser’s in the location it has occupied for decades hangs in the balance. One presumption has been the city could take ownership of the building and retain Dumser’s as a tenant, but owners of the iconic ice cream company this week said regardless of the outcome of the expected appeal, they remain loyal to the Rapoport family and will not become tenants of the city if it takes ownership of the building.
In a formal statement released on Tuesday as a letter to the editor, the Timmons family, which owns and operates the stand-alone business in question near the Inlet along with the company’s other popular outlets in and around the resort, attempted to clear the air about any future relationship with the town in regards to the Rapoport building.
“I would like to address all of our great customers and workers at South Division location for the last 35-plus years,” the statement reads. “There’s been a lot of speculation in the last two weeks about our future at this location. We realize that Dumser’s owes its success to you. That success, however, would not be possible without the help of the Rapoport family for many years. We feel a part of their family and they are certainly part of ours.”
In the statement, the Timmons family asserts the city’s successful takeover of the building, for the time being at least, is unwarranted and the family stands in unison with the Rapoport heirs in their appeal attempt.
“A lot of hard work has been put into this small store by Mr. Nathan first and then by Dumser’s,” the statement reads. “We do very well there as you can see by the lines of customers, but it didn’t happen overnight. We feel very blessed to have such a following. For the city to just step in and take over is not fair.”
For those reasons, the Timmons family has dismissed any possibility of remaining as a tenant of the city in the building if the Nathan Associates’ appeal is unsuccessful, even if it meant giving up the location it has called home for over three decades.
“My family and I have decided that it would be morally wrong to turn our backs to the very family that have supported us for all these years,” he said. “Having said that, I want to make it clear that there is no circumstance under which we will ever be a tenant of the city. We stand firmly with the Rapoport family. It would be with great regret for us to give up this location since it has become so special to us, but if the appeal is lost, we will.”
That statement is in response to Mayor Rick Meehan’s statement last week about the matter.
“First, let me clarify the town’s actions with regard to this property are against Nathan Rapoport’s heirs, not Dumser’s. All rights to the property that Dumser’s former lessor may or may not have are expired. Dumser’s has been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to the Rapoport heirs, while the true beneficiaries of this property, the taxpayers of Ocean City, have received very little in return,” Meehan said. “The court has recently rendered their decision, however, the town has yet to decide how to move forward with the property. Dumser’s future in this location could be part of that discussion, yet due to pending litigation, that discussion is on hold. After many years, the town now has the opportunity to manage and maintain this location in a way that will ensure fair return and the best interest for our taxpayers.”
Meanwhile, a change.org petition is circulating in an attempt to urge the Mayor and Council to “Save Dumser’s on the Inlet and Nathan’s Building.”
“We believe that Nathan Rapoport’s legacy of the past 105 years belongs to his heirs and that it and the business that Don Timmons has built are community assets and should remain as they have been,” the petition reads. “This iconic building needs to be retained by the family tht owns it and preserved.”
The petition that began circulating last weekend had a desired goal of 10,000 signatures and had already reached nearly 9,000 by mid-week. The petition’s stated goals are that the town of Ocean City not require Nathans or Dumser’s to vacate the property on Oct. 31, and that the town not require that the Nathans building be removed or demolished. Perhaps more importantly, the petition asserts that the town of Ocean City “concede that Nathans is the owner of the land on which its building sits by virtue of its continuous possession thereof for 105 years, just as the Maryland appellate courts have already decided that Windsor Resorts Inc. owns the property located just south of the Nathans property.”
For full story on that case, click here.