Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – April 8, 2022

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – April 8, 2022

It’s no secret local real estate has hit new heights, as the seller’s market trends continue. Nonetheless, some of the statistics provided in the Coastal Association of Realtors’ monthly report continue to amaze. A look inside some of the data for the month of February, which is not typically a busy real estate month:

  • 17: Median days properties are remaining on the market for February, the same as last February.
  • $312,250: The median sale price for properties closed in February – up 22% over February 2021 and 16% since January. Comparatively, the median home price in the pre-pandemic 2020 month was $231,250.
  • 388: Active current listings in Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties – down 23% from last February. New listings were down 21% in Worcester this February compared to 2021’s February.
  • 275: Settlements this February were down 15% over same month last year. For Worcester alone, settlements dropped 25% this February compared to last February.

Coastal Association of REALTORS® President Grace Masten had this to say about the local real estate market. “Prices are on the rise and although that is good news for homeowners in the area is not good news for people looking to become homeowners. Over the last 20 years home building has not kept up with the needs of the area and we are now seeing the results. Low inventory and rising home costs. Now is the time to incentivize home building for all levels of the market. Salisbury’s “Here is Home” incentive program is a great example of what government can do to incentivize developments.”

Greed comes to mind with Ocean City’s direction to increase the bonfire permit fees by 13%, from $75 to $85. Just because the rate has been in place for many years doesn’t mean it needs to increase. It’s an unnecessary money grab.

People in all facets of life, from the grocery store and gas pumps to utilities and rising tax rates from booming assessments, are facing rising costs. Inflation fatigue is a real thing with no signs of a change near. The case has not been made to increase the bonfire permit fees. If the city sees the need to proceed with buying new equipment due to the soaring popularity, the fee increase could be justified. Back in 2010, there were just 67 permits issued. In 2016, there were 233. Last year there about 3,300, resulting in $247,500 in revenue for the city.

A regional comparison finds Ocean City’s bonfire permit fee is slightly above average when pitted against other municipalities. Ocean City needs to be aware of its perception in some sectors of the marketplace – it’s all about the money. This is just an unnecessary upcharge at a time when inflation is being used as a crutch to charge more for just about every service consumers want or need.

At a recent meeting, Ocean City officials expressed a need for a public show of support for the current sports complex process playing out along Route 50. At last week’s meeting, Mayor Rick Meehan said, “I’m asking the council to take some action. The Town of Ocean City is interested in being a partner with the county on this. I’m asking the council to vote to support this project and the purchase of this property.”

Last month the Worcester County Commissioners announced a public hearing for Tuesday, April 19 at 6 p.m. to gather sentiments on the county bonding $11.2 million to acquire 95 acres of property west of Stephen Decatur High School for a sports complex development to provide more opportunities for locals as well as attract large tournaments for tourism purposes.

The resort’s early display of support came in part last week with the creation of an event page on Facebook, “Worcester Families For Sports,” encouraging citizens to support the acquisition, which will run through the state’s Program Open Space funding mechanism if approved by the commissioners. Ocean City’s positive position was clearly stated on the page, saying, “This new sports complex will provide county residents and guests with more recreational programming and event opportunities by providing additional field space. Conceptual plans for this project include multi-purpose fields, with restrooms, parking, and concessions for recreation and travel sports. Additional park amenities include walking trails, ponds, and a playground. In addition to the recreational benefit the project brings to Worcester County families, this project would put Worcester County “on the map” for youth and adult competitions, providing growing economic development opportunities. The complex will be an investment with a far-reaching local impact on vast school and recreation activities, making Maryland’s Coast the amateur sports capital of the Mid-Atlantic.”

It’s hard to draw conclusions on stories this paper posts to Facebook, but the community seems divided on this effort. The public hearing will shed some light on whether the entire concept of the county/city getting into the sports complex business is the concern or if it’s the specific site. There have been legitimate reservations expressed over the site because of Seahawk Road’s legendary traffic woes. Questions at the public hearing will certainly dive into traffic concerns, but the problem is it’s most likely too early in the process to even talk about ingress and egress issues and whether vehicles would be able to access the complex from Route 50, Seahawk Road or Flower Street. The answer could be all three.

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.