OCEAN CITY — A divided council this week turned down a resort business’s request to use six public on-street parking spaces on certain dates for band tour buses, but did not slam the door on the idea completely.
On Monday, the Mayor and Council heard a request from Cowboy Coast Saloon owner Mark Bogosh to utilize six public parking spaces adjacent to his business on 18th Street to house band tour buses in August. The band tour buses would use the spaces to load and unload equipment and also utilize the tour bus as a green room of sorts between performances.
Bogosh first pitched the idea to the police commission last week when he told commission members he was trying to bring in larger national acts, but most have special needs including ready access to their tour bus from the concert venue. Bogosh told the police commission last week he did not have the space on his own property to host the band tour buses, which is why he was seeking the use of six on-street spaces immediately adjacent to his establishment.
During the police commission meeting last week, Councilman Matt James made a motion to approve the request, but it died for lack of a second. Instead, the police commission attempted to find another solution with Bogosh and Cowboy Coast, including potentially leasing parking from the church immediately across the street on the requested dates, most of which fall on Thursdays.
It was also pointed out during the police commission meeting if the request was approved, signage and barricades would have to be in place at least 48 hours before a performance and the six parking spaces would be designated as a tow-away zone.
After considerable debate, the police commission last week decided to send a neutral recommendation on the request to the full mayor and council, which took up the debate on Monday. James said on Monday he believed it was a reasonable accommodation.
“It was a good presentation on how this would allow the business to attract bigger and better bands and attract more people to Ocean City,” he said.
However, Councilman John Gehrig, who does not sit on the police commission, said there appeared to be more questions than answers.
“I think we need more information,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m inclined to support this as presented. I’d like to have more of the facts.”
Councilman Mark Paddack said he would like the answers to some of those questions before he could support the request.
“I’m surprised the business owner is not here,” he said. “I can see in the notes he made a comment that national acts expect certain things and I get that. Where did these tour buses park before? Why is he now coming to the police commission to ask for permission to use town property?”
Paddack, a former Ocean City police officer, alluded to some of the potential uses of a tour bus as a green room for a band between performances.
“The tour bus is characterized as a green room of sorts for the band,” he said. “I wasn’t born yesterday. I know what a green room for a band outside a bar can be.”
Paddack also questioned the use of staff time and resources to accommodate the request.
“What about the cost for public works to set up barricades and signs?” he said. “I don’t feel the taxpayers should bear that expense without the town being reimbursed. I am totally opposed to this.”
Councilman Dennis Dare said he understood the request and pointed out similar concessions had been made for other resort businesses.
“I commend the business owner for bringing entertainment into town,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of things for other businesses like load and unload zones and 20-minute parking spaces. It seemed like a reasonable request until I looked at why it can’t be parked on site.”
Dare explained he did a drive-by of the establishment before the meeting to get a picture in his head of what was going to be discussed and found a school bus parked over six spaces on the property.
“On the way to the meeting, I drove by and saw an old school bus parked on site,” he said. “The roof was cut off and it looks like it has been there a long time. I didn’t get out and I’m not sure it even has tags or registration stickers, but I know I’ve never seen it driving around town.”
Dare said the old school bus appears to be occupying a space on the restaurant’s property that could accommodate the band tour buses.
“Until they get rid of this abandoned school bus, I’m not sure I can support this,” he said. “We’re willing to help him, but he has to help himself. When I left home, I had a favorable idea about this. By the time I got to City Hall, I had changed my opinion.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight said when the business owner made the presentation at the police commission, he said those spots were rarely used by the public, a notion she dismissed from personal experience.
“He said those six spaces are never full,” he said. “I drive by there several times a day and the least number of spaces I ever see full is four and often all six are full. Those spaces aren’t available for something like this.”
Gehrig said the discussion revealed his colleagues on the council had just as many questions as he did about the request. He also said Bogosh likely couldn’t be there on Monday to answer those questions because of the timing of the meeting.
“It seems like you have more questions than I do,” he said. “It’s now 7:30 at night in the middle of July and he has a business to run. That’s probably why he is not here.”
Gehrig also said an amenable solution for everybody could likely be worked out if the questions were answered by the business owner. He said there could be some framework by which the six spaces could be utilized by the business on those select dates.
“When we have special events, we have fees for using our beach,” he said. “We also have fees for applying for special events and the associated costs to the town. I think we should have a discussion about fees for using street parking on certain occasions.”
Gehrig said he wasn’t battling for the business owner, he was just looking for a reasonable solution.
“I’m not dying on the hill for this one,” he said. “Why can’t it be on a case-by-case basis? What does it have to be all or nothing with this?”
Paddack made a motion to deny the request to use six on-street public parking spaces for the restaurant and bar. The motion passed with a 4-3 vote with Paddack, Dare, Council President Lloyd Martin and Knight in favor and Gehrig, James and Tony DeLuca opposed.
However, that did not necessarily close the door on Cowboy Coast’s request to utilize the six on-street parking for band tour buses in the future. Mayor Rick Meehan said the town should be open to having Bogosh come in again and make another presentation.
“I don’t know if he knew he should have been here tonight or if he was even invited,” he said. “The council voted this down tonight, but he can come back. The vote has been taken, but we need to inform him he the option to make this request again.”
In the meantime, Meehan suggested Bogosh reach out to neighboring businesses and see if there is support for using public parking spaces for his band tour buses on certain dates.
“It’s advisable to him to talk to his neighbors,” he said. “There are many businesses in that area and they all have challenges with parking.”