The Town of Ocean City’s bid for the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to reconsider its ruling last month over ownership of a landmark Boardwalk property was denied this week.
In late December, the Court of Special Appeals issued an opinion asserting the town had not presented sufficient evidence to prove ownership of the iconic building on the east side of the Boardwalk at South Division Street, which for decades has been home to Dumser’s Dairyland. The town quickly filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court of Special Appeals opinion handed down in late December. The Court of Special Appeals in short order said no.
Nathans Associates representative Mona Strauss said her family received notice of the Court of Special Appeals decision to deny the motion for reconsideration on Tuesday.
“We got notice of the decision regarding the city’s filing for reconsideration,” she said. “It was received before 1 p.m. on Tuesday. I would imagine that the city was also notified at that time. It was an unbelievably short time within which to render the decision. I guess there is a message in that.”
What will Ocean City do now? It seems clear to me the city will now ask the highest court in Maryland to rule on the case. It was obvious the request for reconsideration before the Court of Special Appeals stood no chance of ever getting approved. It was just a mere formality necessary before asking the state’s highest court to hear the case. Like the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals has discretion over which cases it chooses to hear. Although it’s unclear how long this process will take, one legal source said recently it could be the fall before the Court of Appeals decides whether to accept the case.
Last week’s decision by Worcester County Commissioners to create a building permit allowing developers to ignore a state requirement to install sprinklers in new homes has garnered a lot of attention. The commissioners plan to adopt the new permit through ordinance and then forward to the state for comments.
As would be expected, the commissioners will likely get a sharp rebuke from state officials advising against approving the change, which directly contradicts a 2015 law requiring automatic fire sprinkler systems in all new residential construction.
As that process plays out, it was interesting this week to read a blog by Lorraine Carli on the National Fire Protection Association website headlined, “Maryland County uses baseless information to consider opting out of sprinkler requirements.”
“One of the arguments being used by Worcester County Commissioners in Maryland to try and opt out of the statewide requirement for home fire sprinklers in new homes is that sprinklers thwart building, a notion that has been proven erroneous in other areas,” she wrote. “This is an example of unsupported reasoning being used to allow substandard homes to be built and deny new homeowners the protection home fire sprinklers afford. A research report done several years ago concluded that the presence of sprinkler ordinances had no negative impact on the number of homes being built. The study compared residential construction in the Washington D.C. suburban counties of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s, Md. and Montgomery, Md. and Fairfax, Va. Prince George’s County and Montgomery County have sprinkler requirements; Fairfax County and Anne Arundel County did not at the time. … A similar study was done in California more recently and concluded there was no indication the presence of sprinkler requirements negatively impacted housing starts.”
Eight years ago, the Ocean City Mayor and Council went against its planning commission, which consists of council appointees, and squashed a planned parasail business in north Ocean City.
The plan was for a certified captain to operate a parasail business out of a small building near the Food Lion in the 118th Street shopping center and to use the adjacent canal to get to and from the bay. Back then, the council caved to unsubstantiated quality of life concerns expressed by neighbors who live on the nearby canal. I took the council to task for overturning the planning commission’s decision and squashing the entrepreneurial dreams of a young man without letting the venture begin to see if it truly would be a nuisance to nearby property owners.
Fast forward to today, a conditional use permit is being sought by the connections of OC Bay Hopper to continue operating a north-end water taxi service out of the same location near the Food Lion. The venture began last summer and operated for six weeks without any reported complaints from nearby residents. The permit request will be made before the planning commission later this month. I am sure it will be approved by the commission before heading to the Ocean City Mayor and Council.
My hope is this council will see this matter differently than it did in 2011. The good news is only two voting council members remain in office since that foolish vote to deny the parasail operation.