OC Museum Expansion Bill Shelved For Now

OCEAN CITY — A bill in the General Assembly that would have allowed the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum to be expanded east over areas of the Inlet parking lot has been pulled from consideration this year, but that does not signal a desire to back away from the project.

For decades, the museum has sat on the south end of the Boardwalk offering a glimpse of life in the resort dating back a century or more with various exhibits and displays. The building was a working lifesaving station in the early 1900s and was moved to its current location at the end of the Boardwalk where it was converted into a museum.

It has largely remained unchanged for decades, however, and while the building maintains its quaint charm, the facility has outgrown its usefulness somewhat as a public museum. Last May, the Museum Society Board proposed a new two-story facility adjacent to and connected to the historic lifesaving museum at the foot of the Boardwalk. However, the proposal calls for the expansion to go to the east over a section of the Inlet parking lot, which would require approval from the state. Current state law does not allow new construction east of the Boardwalk.

Earlier this year, Senator Jim Mathias (D038) introduced Senate Bill 849, which, if approved, would have opened the possibility of expanding the museum’s footprint east over the section of the Inlet parking lot. However, the bill was scheduled for a hearing in February that was later postponed. This week, it was learned the bill had been pulled from consideration at the request of the museum’s board.

Board officials said the project is not being abandoned, but rather tweaked on the annexation component. Instead, museum board officials will regroup with a amended plan for the expansion project.

Because of the anticipated legislative change needed to allow an expansion east of the Boardwalk and due to the complexities in obtaining some of the state grants sought, the museum board has asked the Town of Ocean City to be a facilitator in its efforts for expansion. The board is also seeking a financial commitment from the town, contingent on the board’s ability to acquire the necessary grants and public-sector donations.

The overall cost of the project is an estimated $1.4 million. Earlier this year, the town tacitly agreed to help fund the expansion to the tune of $200,000 for the next three years contingent on state approval for expansion over the Inlet lot and the board’s ability to secure private-sector matching funds.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.