OCEAN CITY — Legislation creating special enforcement zones to help stem some of the issues associated with the mobilized special events in Ocean City will be introduced in this General Assembly session.
After several troubling motorized special events in Ocean City, resort officials began exploring ways to curb some of the illicit activity associated with the events. Last November, it was standing room only in the Mayor and Council chamber as the elected officials got their first look at a list of recommendations from the police commission that included eliminating or at least curtailing some of the motorized special events.
The council took no action immediate action, instead opting to have the mayor appoint a task force to begin a deeper dive into some of the proposed solutions.
The task force met for the first time in December with a marathon opening session during which any and all ideas were on the table. A recurring theme during the first task force was the creation of special events enforcement zones, akin to the familiar school zones or highway work zones, where fines and other penalties can be enhanced.
Out of that first task force meeting was a desire to have the town’s representatives in Annapolis seek legislation creating special enforcement zones in the resort during the various motorized special events that would allow the Ocean City Police Department and its allied agencies enhance the penalties for certain illegal activities.
When asked two weeks ago if she had been approached by the town about seeking the legislation, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (R-38C) said there had been cursory discussions about putting together legislation to introduce during the General Assembly session that began on Wednesday.
“At his point, I have been in contact with Mayor [Rick] Meehan to ask him if the Town of Ocean City would make a legislative request for this type of legislation,” she said. “My understanding is that the mayor, the police chief and [City Solicitor] Guy Ayres first are working through this issue internally and then will approach us soon to discuss a possible special events enforcement bill. I have offered to be of assistance with this bill in coordination with Senator Mathias.”
In her pre-session legislative update released this week, Carozza said she indeed had been asked to craft and submit the legislation.
“Locally, at the request of Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, Chief [Ross] Buzzuro and the Motor Vehicle Events Task Force, I will introduce and make it a priority to work on special events zone and enforcement legislation on the House side,” she said.
Through the opening days of the session, the legislation had not been introduced in the House or Senate and it remains uncertain at this point what the bill might look like and include. During the task force sessions in December, most agreed creating special events enforcement zones with enhanced penalties could be a viable option, but admitted there would be challenges. For example, Buzzuro said at the time any law change would likely have to be applied statewide.
“We are exploring the possibility of getting the law changed,” he said during December’s task force meeting. “It will be an uphill battle. This is unique to Ocean City, but a law change would pertain to the state as a whole.”
At the close of the task force meeting in December, Meehan outlined some of the early options for curtailing some of the activities associated with the motorized events including pursuing legislation to create special enforcement zones, stronger fine schedules and strengthening the reckless endangerment statute.