Council Approves Expanded Beach Volleyball Event

OCEAN CITY — Resort officials this week approved an expanded beach volleyball tournament for a vast section of beach uptown next month, but not before a larger discussion of the potential impact on beachgoers and property owners.

The We Build, You Play (WBYP) beach volleyball tournament, featuring some of the top programs from all over the region, has been taking place off and on all summer at various locations around Ocean City in May and June, but the final leg of the series is set for Sept. 22-23 on the beach from either 119th to 113th streets or from 119th to 114th streets, depending on the number of teams participating and the number of courts needed.

Approval for the September leg of the WBYP summer volleyball series was on the Mayor and Council’s consent agenda on Monday and appeared to be heading toward a routine approval before Councilman Dennis Dare raised questions about the extra beach parcels requested as opposed to the earlier legs of the tournament. Dare questioned if the larger tracts needed for the event would impact beachgoers and beachfront property owners on what should still be a pleasant beach weather on a September weekend.

“We previously had this discussion about the event taking place in front of the Carousel and the Fountainhead, but this addendum says it might go down to 113th or 114th Street,” he said. “That’s three more condos that could be affected.”

Special Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell explained the event producer Rich Comly had explored holding the September event on the wider beaches downtown, but logistical problems made that challenging. Mitchell said the producer is likely asking for access to a larger section of beach uptown to safe rather than sorry.

“We asked him to consider downtown, but with everything else going on that weekend, he moved the event uptown,” she said. “He’s probably asking for more space than he needs.”

Dare said the beaches in high-rise row are narrower and having volleyball courts spread over a six-block area could impact the property owners.

“This is the highest density area of Ocean City,” he said. “I know they don’t own the beach, but the mayor’s office will get flooded with calls if we have volleyball courts all over those beaches. He’s just not asking for 116th to 119th streets, he’s asking for four more blocks. We’re going to impact those property owners.”

Councilman Matt James spoke from personal experience as he vouched for the tournament plans.

“Our family owns a condo at 115th Street and the courts there were set up close to the dune,” he said. “For what it’s worth, it really wasn’t an issue.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman pointed to Comly’s long history of producing quality volleyball tournaments in Ocean City as reason to approve the requested plan.

“There is plenty of room,” he said. “Some of the people on the beach would probably enjoy having something to look at. With his track record, I don’t know why we would deny this.”

With that said, the council voted 5-1 to approve the event with Dare opposed and Council President Lloyd Martin absent. However, there was some question of protocol if Mitchell is going to go back and seek the input from the condominium associations in the affected area after the event has already been approved.

“If you are going to have Lisa go back and contact the condo owners for their concerns, why did we approve it already,” said Hartman. “I don’t know what the point is in that if it’s after the fact.”

City Solicitor Heather Stansbury said the motion could be amended to include Mitchell contacting the appropriate condo associations, but suggested that was implied by the discussion.

“I think it’s an aspirational goal,” she said. “You could go back and rescind the motion and make a new motion, but I don’t think that was the intent of the council.”

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.