Interest for Ocean City beach stands appears to be rebounding. Time will tell whether it’s resort-wide, but revenue for the south-end beach equipment rental parcels along the Boardwalk increased by about 50% overall.
There were 34 parcels up for renewal or auction this year. Per city policy, each current parcel holder can renew for another three-year term at a 10% increase over the existing fee. For example, the Inlet beach stand site went for $46,200 three years ago and was renewed for a new term of $50,820 to the existing contract holder. Of the 34 south-end parcels up for renewal, there were only six who opted to secure existing parcels with the 10% increase. After the 28 parcel auctions and the renewals, the town’s beach stand revenue will climb this cycle from $619,399 to $931,081.
A closer look at the individual beach stands revealed some interesting figures. Some of the reasons would seem logically to stem from recent hotel redevelopments. For example, the parcels for 15th and 16th streets each increased significantly. The 15th Street beach stand (in front of the Courtyard by Marriott) was auctioned for $44,000, a 114% increase from the last contract. The 16th Street beach stand in front of the Hyatt went for $41,500, a 209% jump from the previous contract. The largest single increase was for the 11th Street beach stand in front of the Monte Carlo, resulting in a remarkable 3,257% increase from $745 last contract to $25,000 this contract.
What will be interesting to see is whether mid-town beach stands continue this trend next year. History tells us the mid-town sites will not rival the downtown parcels, which are dominated by daytrippers and hotels. Last year when the north end parcels from 85th Street to the Delaware line were up renewal the bids for the 18 sites were down on average of about 11%.
Short-term rental talks continued this week in Berlin.
The issue is a divisive one in the community. A look at Airbnb yesterday showed 16 properties available for rent in Berlin west of Route 113 and south of Route 50. A quick check last summer showed about 30 properties available for rent through Airbnb in the same area.
The town has identified short-term rentals as a concern, and efforts are underway to create the town’s first short-term rental regulations. The topic brings mixed emotions when discussed throughout the community. While many support the concept of protecting the residential neighborhoods, others say allowing Airbnbs does not immediately lead to the degradation of the community. The town seems to be looking to find a happy medium with allowing Airbnbs at properties that are owner occupied. The idea is to ensure there are some checks and balances in place rather than having an owner who lives three hours away unaware of what’s happening at his or her property in Berlin.
In his letter to the town, Coastal Association of Realtors President Joseph Wilson encouraged the town to look at what Ocean City did while also taking a jab at town officials.
“In recent years, the Town of Ocean City recognized a need to enact regulations specific to the growing number of short-term rentals in its residential neighborhoods. They did consider an outright ban on short-term rentals in those neighborhoods. However, they instead chose to create a registry of rentals in their residential neighborhoods, require a local contact, address rental issues via the Property Review and Enforcement Strategies for Safe-housing (PRESS) Committee, require a separate license application for rentals in residential neighborhoods that carries a higher fee, and require a placard on the exterior of a residence that identifies the property as being a rental. Since then, according to the Ocean City Police Department, short-term rental-related complaints have decreased significantly, and Ocean City property owners maintain their right to rent their properties,” he wrote. “It is indisputable that many residents were troubled by last year’s increase in property taxes and fees. Perhaps it is not prudent at this time to remove a potential revenue stream for Berlin’s property owners.”
Major changes are coming to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and it should have a significant impact on the summer travel season. After Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the change last fall, the Maryland Transportation Authority announced an optimistic construction timeline this week to implement all electronic tolling at the bridge by the summer.
Beginning next week, demolition of the existing toll collection booths will take place. The plan calls for the installation of the common overhead “tolling gantries” on the Eastern Shore side of the bridge around Kent Island. The traditional toll operations on the west side of the bridge will be no more. Beachbound motorists will be tolled after they get off the bridge by simply driving under the automated toll collectors.
Statistics from the state prove it shouldn’t be a huge deal for motorists. It was interesting to learn this week 74% of bridge drivers are already E-Z Pass users. To help get the remaining cash users on board, marketing and outreach efforts are planned.