City Council Supports Expanded OC BikeFest Concept

City Council Supports Expanded OC BikeFest Concept
The Inlet parking lot is pictured during a previous year's OC BikeFest. File Photo

OCEAN CITY — OC BikeFest will be extended this fall, but it won’t be the two-week event tentatively proposed in the fall.

The Mayor and Council had before them on Tuesday a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) for OC BikeFest, slated for Wednesday, Sept. 15 through Sunday, Sept. 19 with the event festival at the Inlet lot. The MOU included some new requests from event producer OC Jams, including taking over the Inlet lot for the entire week from Monday, Sept. 13 through the following Sunday, Sept. 19.

A free concert at the Inlet lot has been added to OC BikeFest on Wednesday, Sept. 15, and the producer needs additional days on the front end for the event set-up.

While OC BikeFest will be extended this fall, it will not be a two-week event as proposed last fall. In November, OC Jams proposed a two-week bike week bookended on either weekend with big concerts and other events. Under one proposal, the second week would overlap with the often-troublesome pop-up motorized event, but town officials were less than keen on intermeshing bike week with the unsanctioned event.

In response to a question from the public during Tuesday’s work session about the proposed two-week OC BikeFest, Councilman Mark Paddack said it was just not a good idea.

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“We have discussed this publicly in the fall and the compromise is what is here before us today with a little longer event, but not a two-week event,” he said. “Tying the Bike Fest with the pop-up event is like mixing oil and water and I’ve said that publicly. I don’t think that’s a good mix, but I do like the idea of extending this event.”

At the outset of Tuesday’s discussion on the MOU, Special Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell explained there was some misinformation in the packet about the level of room tax generated during bike week. The information in the packet suggested the entire room tax collected during the month of September 2019 was $1.9 million, but the data suggested room tax collected during the five-day bike week in 2019 alone was over $2 million, which didn’t jibe with the overall monthly total. Mitchell said the error was due to a data collection issue that counted the number of bike week individual attendees as renting single rooms.

“BikeFest is obviously a little different than a convention,” she said. “Whereas a convention typically has one attendee per motel room, an event like BikeFest has multiple attendees in one room or one condo. As a result, the room tax is actually less than that.”

Budget Manager Jennie Knapp explained the total room tax collected in September 2019 was $1.9 million. Last year, when there was no official OC BikeFest because of COVID restrictions still in place, the total room tax collected September was right around $2 million, or slightly higher than the prior year.

Knapp said room tax is calculated monthly, and can’t be broken down by week or even specific weekend, which makes it difficult to quantify the economic impact of bike week. Councilman John Gehrig said despite there being no formal bike week event last September, large numbers of bikers came anyway.

“There was no BikeFest in 2020 because of COVID, but there were still a lot of bikers in town,” he said. “I don’t want to give the impression we don’t need BikeFest.”

Mayor Rick Meehan raised concern about a proposed motorcycle parade on the Boardwalk on Saturday, Sept. 18. According to the draft MOU, the staff had no concerns with the proposed parade as along as of the motorcycles were off the Boardwalk by 2 p.m. Meehan said he believed the parade should be set much earlier.

“In the notes it said the parade would end at 2 p.m.,” he said. “Don’t the trams still start at noon? Typically, that’s still a busy weekend to have a bike parade on the Boardwalk at 2 p.m. We need to better define that time period. There are still a lot of people up there at that time.”

The draft MOU would also adjust the days on which the town’s trailer parking permit ordinance would be in place. Typically, the trailer ordinance during motorized special events is in place from Thursday to Sunday. However, the draft MOU calls for it to be in place from Monday until the following Sunday.

A few years ago, in order to combat an inordinate amount of trailers parked on public streets and in residential neighborhoods, the town adopted an ordinance creating a trailer parking permit that limited the areas where they could be stored and removed them entirely from major roadways such as Baltimore Avenue, for example. Gehrig questioned if the trailer parking permit ordinance was still valid, or if it needed to be reviewed. Meehan explained the reasoning behind the original ordinance.

“It’s to regulate the number of trailers that are on the streets and back in neighborhoods and in front of people’s houses,” he said. “It encourages them to park the trailers on private property which, amazingly, a lot of our property owners have allowed them to do. It’s worked pretty well I think.”

Meehan said the trailer parking permit ordinance has achieved the desired results.

“There are a lot less trailers on public streets,” he said. “It just makes for a better event for the residents as well as those that are participating.”

However, Gehrig asserted the original intent behind the trailer ordinance was to deter participants from congregating around the trailers on the public streets.

“This started as a way to deter some of the drinking and congregating,” he said. “Somehow, it migrated into a trailer ordinance. Let’s have a trailer ordinance because it’s a public safety issue around Baltimore Avenue and the intersections.”

Paddack had his own recollection about the genesis of the trailer ordinance as a public safety issue, particularly on Baltimore Avenue.

“During special events, participants are allowed to purchase a permit to park trailers on the public street,” he said. “The key component of this is Baltimore Avenue. That is a serious traffic safety issue with trailers parked along that avenue.”

Paddack said he didn’t recall the congregating as the catalyst behind the original trailer parking permit ordinance.

“I don’t recall the issue of partying and the trailers,” he said. “They want their vehicles parked near their trailers and it’s usually in a residential neighborhood. I remember Baltimore Avenue being the real catalyst for the trailer permit ordinance.”

Paddack made a motion to approve the draft OC BikeFest MOU and its various elements. He later amended the motion to include an earlier finish time for the Boardwalk motorcycle parade.

“There are a number of events that participate on the Boardwalk,” he said. “I’ll amend the motion so that there aren’t any motorcycles on the Boardwalk after 10 a.m.”

The council unanimously approved the draft MOU with the change in the stop time for the Boardwalk parade. The final MOU will come back to the Mayor and Council for review and approval before the event in September.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.