OCEAN CITY — A divided council this week narrowly approved a special event on the beach in August despite concerns about amplified music.
The Mayor and Council had before them on Monday a request for a special event on the beach near the Inlet south of the pier for Saturday, Aug. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon. The event is called TY UNC Daycation and the plan calls for bringing a bus group of around 200 people from Fort Washington, Md. to Ocean City to spend a day at the beach.
The group will bring canopy tents, beach chairs and coolers. Special Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell explained the same promoter has brought bus groups to Ocean City in the past, but because he wants to add a disc jockey with amplified music this year, the applicant had to go through the special events application process with approval ultimately from the council.
Mitchell explained no town resources are needed for the event, which will pay the resort $350 for the special event permit. However, the various departments had reviewed the application and offered several comments.
“He has regularly brought bus groups to Ocean City,” she said. “He wanted to try to enhance the event this year by bringing a DJ and an amplifier system. The promoter has said there will be no alcohol use by participants and the speakers will be pointed out toward the ocean. If there are any complaints, the promoter will address them immediately.”
Councilman Mark Paddack said he had reviewed the application and didn’t see any comments from the police department, although Mitchell pointed out the department had weighed in.
“I saw a lot of red flags when I read through this and I haven’t seen any comments from the police department,” he said. “They have hosted this event without music the last three summers and there were four buses with 200 people. I’ve seen them come in and the buses sit in the fire lanes all day.”
Despite what the applicant maintains, Paddack said from his law enforcement experience with the group alcohol consumption will be a concern.
“When I went out after the event, I found trash, trash and more trash, and included in that trash were alcoholic beverages,” he said. “This is 9 a.m. to noon on the beach. After that, they go to a popular midtown location that offers alcohol and then another location in Delmar. This is a booze cruise on buses. I’m just concerned about a booze cruise on the beach on a Saturday morning in August.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight said she had concerns with the amplified music on an otherwise crowded beach on a Saturday in August.
“My concern is with the DJ,” she said. “We can have a couple thousand people up there on a Saturday morning. I think this sets a bad precedent. That’s enough for me to vote against this right now. I don’t want to be up there with my family and hear music blaring.”
Councilman Matt James said he shared some of those concerns, but pointed out the applicant has promised to address them and maybe should be taken at his word.
“I do have some concerns and if I didn’t like the music I’d probably be bothered too, but the applicant has said if there is a problem, he would turn it down or off,” he said. “If there is a problem with alcohol, I think our police will handle it.”
James said the existing ordinances on the books likely provided enough oversight for the event.
“We have ordinances against noise and loud music,” he said. “Maybe we have enough oversight. We can ask him to turn it down or off. They’re going to come anyway, so we might as well have that oversight.”
Council President Lloyd Martin said the bus groups were free to come as they pleased, but because they requested amplified music, it moved into the special event category.
“Right now, we have no reason to be out there,” he said. “As soon as it becomes an approved special event, we have people up there with oversight to monitor it.”
Councilman John Gehrig said it was a little hypocritical to hold up the event because of the possibility of noise on the beach.
“We do this all the time,” he said. “We have jets flying over and power boats, concerts and skate competitions. If they break the rules, we can take care of it. There is a lot of noise on the beach already and some of it is our own. We have movies on the beach and fireworks all the time. This is an event for 200 people, but it’s going to be advertised widely on social media. In my experience, these things can get out of hand. This is a private event for 200 people, but who knows where it will go from there.”
The council approved the special event request with a 4-3 vote with Knight, Paddack and Councilman Dennis Dare opposed. Mayor Rich Meehan pointed out the lifeguards will not be on duty during the first hour of the event.
“Please reach out to the group and make sure they know our lifeguards aren’t in the stand until 10 a.m.,” he said. “That’s always a big concern of ours.”