OCEAN CITY — Despite a measure of closure in the long-running Dumser’s case last week, resort officials continue to assert ownership of the historic property on the east side of the Boardwalk, but are ready to move on.
The Court of Appeals last week denied a petition for writ of certiorari filed earlier this year by the town of Ocean City, which, if approved, would have had the state’s highest court take up the case involving ownership of the historic building on the east side of the Boardwalk at South Division Street. For decades, the building has been home to the iconic Dumser’s Dairyland, but ownership of the property was called into question when an agreement between the city and the Nathans Associates expired in 2016.
The ownership dispute began in Worcester County Circuit Court, which ruled in favor of the town of Ocean City. As a result, Nathans Associates, or the heirs of Nathan Rapaport, who built the structure in 1912, were enjoined from any use of the property and were given a timeline at that time to remove or demolish the historic building.
Nathans Associates then appealed the case to the state’s Court of Special Appeals, which essentially ruled in favor of the long-standing property owners twice. The town of Ocean City in February filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Court of Appeals, seeking to have the state’s highest court take up the case. However, the Court of Appeals last Friday denied the petition, essentially ending any further legal remedy for the town of Ocean City.
In its opinion, the Court of Special Appeals late last year opined Ocean City had not presented sufficient evidence to assert ownership of the property. The Court of Special Appeals asserted the only evidence of ownership presented by the town of Ocean City that the property in question was located in the public easement was the original deed platted way back in 1876 in the nascent days of the fledgling resort.
In the wake of the high court’s ruling late last week, Mayor Rick Meehan continued to assert the town’s position in the ownership battle over the historic property. Meehan said this week the town’s own surveys of the property still suggested it did.
“Contrary to the opinion of the court, we believe the parcel in question clearly lies within the boundaries of land dedicated and accepted by the town of Ocean City,” he said. “We have a recent survey which verifies the survey that the town submitted at trial.”
From the beginning, the town never stated any clear intention of what it wished to do with the property, only that it was acting in the best interest of Ocean City and its taxpayers in the dispute, a position from which he did not back down this week despite last week’s outcome.
“It is still our belief that we had an obligation to represent our taxpayers and their interests in this matter,” he said. “However, the court disagrees with our position.”
Nonetheless, the mayor was somewhat conciliatory and gracious with the high court’s final ruling.
“Although we are disappointed, we accept their decision and believe it is time to move on,” he said. “We wish the heirs of Nathan Rapaport and their tenant, Dumser’s Dairyland, the best moving forward.”