Police Commission Vote Questioned

OCEAN CITY – Officials this week agreed to hold a work session regarding a local developer’s request to place bike racks on Upshur Lane.

Councilman John Gehrig told the Mayor and Council Monday he wanted more information on a recent Ocean City Police Commission meeting, during which a request to replace parking and loading zonings along the north side of Upshur Lane with bike racks failed in a 2-2 vote. He requested the council discuss the issue at an upcoming work session.

“I’m not saying I’m taking either side. I’d just like to hear the debate,” he said. “It seems like we have staff saying it’s OK. We have two people who agreed, two people who disagreed. It sounds like something I’d like to hear on both sides.”

Earlier this month, LUX QOZP Properties LLC Principal Mike Ramadan came before the police commission with a request to replace parking and loading zonings along the north side of Upshur Lane with bike racks. He said the installation of bike racks would complement the former Phillips Crab House property, located just north of Upshur, where he plans to develop workforce housing.

As part of that project, required parking would be placed across the street, adjacent to the Islander Motel. Ramadan told commission members this month he would rather have bike parking along Upshur Lane.

“We’re just trying to make it so they don’t go across the street,” he said. “Our parking lots are actually across the way. I foresee a lot of accidents happening by just crossing the street to get their bikes.”

After further discussion, the commission voted 2-2, with Councilman Frank Knight and Council President Matt James in favor and Councilman Peter Buas and Mayor Rick Meehan opposed, and the request failed. Those in opposition took issue with the developer using public right-of-way for bike parking when he had leased property to the north on which he could place the racks.

On Monday, the Mayor and Council had before them a consent agenda, which acknowledged the reports of several standing committees, including the police commission. Gehrig said he wanted to talk about the portion of the meeting minutes that highlighted Ramadan’s request.

“If we have workforce housing and we’re not approving a bike rack that it seems like staff all said was totally fine, that we didn’t need that space …  then I think I’d at least like to hear the debate,” he said.

For his part, Buas said he wasn’t opposed to bike racks, but rather the location.

“It was more of a policy point,” he said, “not putting them on the street when they could be somewhere else.”

City Manager Terry McGean noted that the developer had acquired the former Phillips Crab House property, as well as a long-term lease for the property just north of the old restaurant. He said the commission had asked Ramadan why he couldn’t place the bike racks at that location.

“He claims he cannot because of restrictions from his landlord,” he told the council Monday. “It was a little confusing in his presentation what exactly that meant.”

Meehan said he had opposed the request because he believed other locations should be considered first. He also noted that while the developer intends to put workforce housing on the site, plans could change.

“They did not take advantage of the workforce housing section of the code that we passed in order to accommodate and encourage builders to build workforce housing,” he explained. “Not to hold that against him, because I didn’t, but it’s not specifically going to be workforce housing. I think he’s been clear that if he doesn’t use it or isn’t able to rent for workforce housing, he will Airbnb the property.”

After further discussion, the council agreed to add the topic to a future work session agenda.

“I’d like to reach out to the applicant,” James added. “If his request is still there, I’m fine with it. If he’s found an alternative location, there’s no need to talk about it.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.