OCEAN CITY — While what will likely be a lengthy appeal, it will remain business as usual at an iconic building on the east side of the Boardwalk currently home to a Dumser’s Dairyland ice cream parlor at least until the legal battle over its ownership runs its course.
Ownership of the historic building was called into question last year after a 50-year agreement expired between the town of Ocean City and the heirs of the original owner, Nathan Rapoport, who built the first structure on the site in 1905. After a trial last April, a Worcester County Circuit Court judge issued an opinion essentially ruling in favor of the town of Ocean City. As a result, the Rapoport heirs, now Nathans Associates, were enjoined from any of use of the property after October 31 and would be required to remove or demolish the building before the end of this year.
Nathans Associates have since appealed the Worcester County Circuit Court ruling and that appeal is now making its way through what will likely be a lengthy legal process. In the interim, Nathans Associates late last month filed a motion to stay the enforcement of the Circuit Court’s ruling regarding the deadlines for vacating the premises and ultimately removing or demolishing the structure. That motion was denied, however, Mayor Rick Meehan on Friday issued a statement assuring Nathans Associates, and the public which has become so emotionally attached to the building, that the town will not enforce any of the deadlines imposed by the Circuit Court Judge until the appeals process runs its course.
“We understand there has been a lot of public discussion about the fate of the property that sits on South Atlantic Avenue and is currently home to one of Dumser’s Dairyland Boardwalk locations,” the statement reads. “Although this is a complicated legal matter, we would like to clarify our position on the current appeal.”
Again, Meehan through the statement reasserted no action will be taken on the property until the appeal is adjudicated.
“The town of Ocean City believes in the right to due process and we do not oppose Nathans Associates’ motion to stay,” the statement reads. “In other words, no action will be taken by the town of Ocean City until a final decision is made by the Court of Special Appeals. The building will not have to be vacated, nor will any final decision on the building be made until after their appeal is ruled on by the court. In all likelihood, this will not occur until sometime in 2018.”
The dispute over ownership, or in the town’s opinion jurisdiction, ended up in Worcester County Circuit Court last year after the town sent a letter to Nathans Associates essentially stating the 50-year agreement had expired and it was time for the Rapoport heirs to abandon it and turn over ownership to the city.
Nathans Associates essentially claimed the town had abandoned any ownership rights to the property after the building had sat on the site for well over 100 years. The town asserted Atlantic Avenue, essentially the Boardwalk and the land east of it, had been dedicated to the public by a decades-old act of the Maryland General Assembly and was to be maintained by the municipality, regardless of the 1966 agreement that expired in 2016.