Voices From The Readers – February 11, 2022

Voices From The Readers – February 11, 2022

Out Of Control Development

Editor:

It is pretty evident to anyone who follows events in Ocean City that most developers get just about whatever they want when doing business in the town. Although a tome of rules and regulations exist, the developers and their legal teams merely view such rules as a small hindrance. They pretty much get whatever they want while using their political and financial muscle as the town tends to acquiesce to whatever requests are made. Important items such as setbacks, landscaping requirements and minimum number of parking spaces are frequently ignored as the developer gets a variance to do as he or she pleases.

Luckily there was an exception to this development at any cost mindset that the town seems to subscribe. Earlier this month, during the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), there was a win for the little guys. It was a David vs. Goliath moment. In this case, Goliath was Mr. Hugh Cropper and his client Effie’s Beach LLC who is attempting to build a monstrous eight-story building downtown on the bay and Baltimore Ave. The “David’s” here were a hastily thrown together group of area property owners who love and care about Ocean City. There was Frank, Bryan, Karen, George and Simone. Each spoke passionately against granting variances that would make an already difficult parking area even more disastrous.

The three board members listened to the testimony given by both sides. Of course, “Goliath’s” statements included the tired and predictable drivel that this would be the best structure ever built and would be such a terrific enhancement to downtown with no negatives. It is a tad ironic that many of these exact same arguments are made by him at the proposed Margaritaville project just a few blocks north.

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When the “David’s” got to speak, they pleaded for the board to not ignore the rules on the books. Board Chair Harrison listened to the group. He admitted that the project as proposed did not fit the character of the surrounding area. Board member Rudolf listened very thoroughly and sided with the “David’s” and determined that it was just too big of a project with too little parking. Board member Jahnke, who admitted to not driving downtown and not being fully aware of the issues at hand, did not find an issue with adding to the parking woes and sided with the developer. Thankfully he was in the minority and members Harrison and Rudolf prevailed.

We all know this issue is not going away. We fully expect Mr. Cropper to return in some fashion and once again portray this development as the best thing Ocean City has ever experienced since Thrashers and Dumsers. I hope the BZA nembers will hold firm and insist that any development on this property will not have a material adverse effect on the surrounding community.

Also of major concern is the talk that a deal is already in place for the town to lease parking spaces it owns to the developer. What an awful idea, and if not illegal, it is certainly shady. If the town has excess property that it believes it no longer needs, it should be put on the market for sale or offered at auction to the highest bidder. A behind the scenes deal like this lease that is being promoted is unconscionable. I think that the taxpayers of Ocean City have the expectation that any disposed of property should receive the going market rate. The Good Old Boys Network here in town must come to a halt. BZA Members Harrison and Rudolf have taken the first step in righting this out of control development. Town Council member Frank Knight also spoke eloquently against this project as presented. I hope that the rest of the Town Council members will follow Council member Knight’s lead and not support a project that is inappropriate for the land on which it sits.

Scott Chismar

Ocean City