Though the dialogue involving year-round residency remains speculative in nature, the ongoing frank discussions at City Hall remain productive.
There are many different reasons why people choose to not live in Ocean City. Some folks simply do not want to be subjected to the crowds and traffic of the hectic summer season as well as shoulder event weekends Some simply prefer larger yards in a more rural and quiet atmosphere. Still many others desire living and raising their children in neighborhoods full of other kids.
These are impossible responses for the Town of Ocean City to combat when it comes to increasing year-round residency. What the town can and should be focusing on is addressing the perception it’s more expensive to build a home in Ocean City for those who have already decided their future will involve living in the resort.
It’s the cost, not the inevitabilities that come with living in a vacation destination, of building on the island that merit attention. The price to live in Ocean City is not generally higher than Berlin or Ocean Pines. Depending on the specific property, contrary to popular belief, it can be cheaper to live in Ocean City from a tax and utility perspective.
The specific charge the Mayor and Council and city planning officials have targeted as a problem is the belief it’s more expensive for potential homebuilders to develop their homes in Ocean City than it is in neighboring Sussex County. This is a matter the city should take seriously. The problem is it might be an unwinnable battle. Nonetheless, the effort is worthwhile.
It’s tough to dispute the lure of becoming a resident in Delaware. It’s simply cheaper. A recent real estate advertisement in this paper highlighted the differences between Maryland and Delaware. The ad pointed to the following benefits to living in Delaware: no sales tax, $12,500 of social security income is not taxed, no inheritance tax, no personal property tax and a senior citizen discount for homeowners who will not be utilizing the county’s school system.
Among the considerations in Ocean City to help make building in the city more appealing are relaxing permit and impact fees, contributing a match of the state’s mortgage assistance grant and a deferral of property taxes for a number of years to keep mortgage expenses down.
It was reported this week the city fees associated with building a single-family home in Ocean City in the range of $200,000 to $300,000 amounts to approximately $7,500. Estimations are it will be at least 35% cheaper to build 10 miles to the north in Selbyville. For many homeowners, the increased cost of building a home near the beach would be worth it. Clearly, for others, it’s simply about the dollars and cents.
The challenge Ocean City is facing will not be easy to overcome, but the benefits of a larger year-round residency base are undeniable. The upcoming Census is expected to confirm what Ocean City officials already know. There are less people living in town year-round today than in recent history. From 2000 to 2018, according to Census estimations, the year-round population has declined from 7,102 to 6,927. The reality is the loss is far greater than those numbers indicate. The consequence of the population loss is significant.
Councilman Dennis Dare put it well this week, saying, “Getting more people to live here year-round is important. They visit the businesses and restaurants etc. and enhance the community in that way. It just makes for a more livable community when there are sustainable businesses and services in town. That’s important.”
Most areas of northern Worcester County are recording surges in population. It’s smart for Ocean City to weigh all possible options to reverse the trend in the other direction.