Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – October 15, 2021

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – October 15, 2021

While a solid crowd was in Ocean City last weekend for the Cruisin event, the fall installment continues to be tame. Even at the height of the concerns over vehicle events in Ocean City a few years ago, the fall Cruisin weekend has always been the quietest with the least problems for police when compared to the spring version and the pop-up rally.

“It was relatively a non-event,” Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said during Wednesday’s Police Commission meeting. “I think everyone had a good, positive experience in Ocean City. From a public safety aspect, we faired very, very well. There were minimal incidents throughout town the entire weekend.”

There will come a point when the special enforcement zone will need to be reconsidered for this specific weekend. It’s too soon to consider lifting the safety and enforcement enhancements the special event zone brings with it at this time, but it should be considered in 2023 if next year is another quiet weekend for the fall Cruisin event. The Columbus Day weekend – which many businesses view as the end to their season — has traditionally not been a major thorn in the city’s side. A few years of peace will be needed before any consideration to do away with the special event zone for the pop-up weekend and the spring Cruisin event.

Also, during the police commission meeting this week, Buzzuro recapped September crime figures. Buzzuro reported a significant decrease in calls for service compared to September 2019 and September 2020.

“You can see there was a fairly significant decrease in calls for service, starting with officer calls, which were reduced by more than 1,000 from September of 2019 to September of 2021 …,” he said. “The better gauge is the 2019 gauge.”

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Buzzuro added that citizen calls for service had decreased by 400. And in the top 25 calls for service, traffic stops had decreased by more than 700, disorderly calls had decreased by 360 and citizen assists had decreased by 148, when compared to September 2019. Under September enforcement, custodial arrests decreased from 293 in 2019 to 278 in 2021, drug arrests increased from 14 in 2019 to 21 in 2021, and drug citations (marijuana) had decreased from 39 in 2019 to 20 in 2021. While weapons arrests had increased from 12 in 2019 to 30 in 2021, Buzzuro noted it was an improvement from 2020, which had a reported 40 weapons arrests.

“We know we are moving in the right direction,” Buzzuro told commission members.

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Time is of the essence when it comes to a potential workforce housing complex to serve Ocean City. It will likely be a couple summers before any sort of project is built and major obstacles preventing a site decision now should be considered serious. Too many complications should result in the city moving on to easier options.

Therefore, Ocean City is right to shift its focus away from the problematic park-and-ride site – favored by city elected officials during a discussion last week. Further review of the park-and-ride facility revealed significant issues to overcome. While a downtown site is under consideration, the city seems to be favoring the 100th Street parking lot, which is under utilized most of the summer. Any sort of development agreement would require a deal with a utility company on a land swap, but it appears at this point to be a viable option and also the simplest.

There may be some temptation to consider the downtown model block program, but it would seem logical for a seasonal housing complex to not be located in the town’s downtown area. The town’s model block program has long been envisioned as a prime redevelopment opportunity with the goal of enhancing activity and interest in the core block between Philadelphia and Baltimore avenues. A seasonal workforce housing complex, which by its nature would sit vacant many months, would not accomplish this worthwhile goal of creating a new destination point in the downtown core.

Ocean City should give the 100th Street site all its attention because without adequate housing the labor shortage of recent years will become commonplace.

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There appears to be a race currently among residential developers on the lower shore. Some frank conversation at this week’s Berlin Planning Commission confirmed the observation. Under consideration by the commission is a proposed 176-unit townhouse community at the northwest intersection of Main Street and Route 50. Developers are trying to capitalize on the hot real estate market before it fizzles out. Make no mistake there will be a real estate correction in the future as history confirms it’s inevitable. It just a matter of when.

In the meantime, developers want to build housing to meet the demands and interests of buyers before the market changes.  Developer Chris Carbaugh was blunt when he talked about the benefits of the townhouse community.

“This is a project the development group is looking to go as quickly as they can, with the market as good as it is,” he said. “You can’t get these built fast enough. We’d like to see what we could do to keep the project moving forward. … Because we can’t find anything in Berlin we’re finding out builders are skipping Berlin and have now started looking at Snow Hill and at Pocomoke and even further south. And they’ve even started doing small projects because we can’t get anything going here in Berlin. Do we want to miss that opportunity?”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.