Last week’s landing of a helicopter on an Ocean City church parking lot on a busy summer night was a surprise to the city’s public safety officials. That simply cannot happen.
Equally startling was the fact Ocean City has nothing on the books prohibiting something like this from occurring again. We don’t find the city at fault for that, but it’s one of those incidents the city must react to in swift fashion.
The easiest fix is to simply craft an ordinance making helicopter landings illegal in the municipality and including a potential variance to be reviewed by City Hall on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, the city should consider exploring its options at the Ocean City Municipal Airport to create a chopper landing zone if it doesn’t have one already.
It’s not acceptable for a helicopter to just land in a densely populated area like Ocean City without any sort of notice to the police department and emergency services. In fact, the city is quite fortunate there was not any sort of unfortunate situation from a public safety standpoint.
Many unfortunate things could have happened involving power lines and pedestrians with this situation. Additionally, vehicular accidents need to be a concern because of distracted drivers. It’s a blessing none of these negative possibilities occurred.
To ensure this doesn’t happen again, we think Ocean City would be wise to enact a moratorium preventing a repeat of last week’s unanticipated landing. Surely there will be copy cat instances in the future now that it’s known Ocean City doesn’t have any law preventing repeat situations.
A temporary, 90-day moratorium will give the town time to see how other municipalities handle these sorts of things and then craft its own ordinance once its educated.
The most important piece to all this is the town did not know anything about this planned helicopter landing. That’s what makes it a scary situation. There was no advance warning given to public safety officials and commonsense dictates that should have happened at a minimum, especially in one of the thinnest areas of town from a land mass perspective.
Ocean City needs to put something on the books to prevent this from happening again. While the proper direction is decided, a short-term moratorium would be appropriate.