Council Denies Bike Rack Request

OCEAN CITY – Resort officials this week voted to deny a developer’s request to place bike racks on a portion of Upshur Lane after learning he would not install or remove them.

On Tuesday, the Ocean City Council voted 7-0 to deny a request from developer Mike Ramadan to replace parking and loading zones along the north side of Upshur Lane with bike racks. While a motion was initially made to accept Ramadan’s request, it was withdrawn after learning he could not meet one of the town’s conditions to install the racks and remove them during the winter months.

“Staff feels pretty strongly that we want them out of there during the winter because of the issue with snow removal,” said City Manager Terry McGean. “And I don’t believe we want to have the responsibility of pulling out 300 feet of bike racks and putting them back every year. Honestly, if the developer is not willing to do that then staff would recommend not approving this.”

In November, Ramadan, principal of LUX QOZP Properties LLC, came before the Ocean City Police Commission with a request to replace parking and loading zonings along the northerly 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, the required parking would be placed across the street, adjacent to the Islander Motel. Ramadan told commission members 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 at the November meeting. “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 that could accommodate the bike racks.

A week later, the issue was revisited at a Mayor and Council meeting. And after further discussion, council members agreed to add Ramadan’s request to a future work session for further discussion.

“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,” Councilman John Gehrig said.

Back on the agenda Tuesday, McGean told council members that staff had recommended the town accept Ramadan’s request with four conditions, one of which would be for the developer to install and maintain the bike racks and to remove the bike racks during the offseason.

Councilman Tony DeLuca then made a motion to approve Ramadan’s request with the four conditions.

Meehan, however, argued the bike racks could be placed at the Phillips Square shopping center, which Ramadan has leased.

He said the center had 165 parking spaces and 85 excess parking spaces. He said the lot could accommodate the racks.

“My recommendation or thoughts were that these bike racks could be placed on that property to the north, thus not having to take away any public parking from the street, Upshur Lane,” he said. “I still think that is the way to go. I understand bike racks would be a nice accommodation, and I do support that. But if there’s an alternative to removing public parking, I think we should look to that first. And I believe in this case there is an alternative.”

For his part, Ramadan told the council Tuesday he initially wanted to place the bike racks at the shopping center, but that his landlord wouldn’t allow it. City Solicitor Heather Stansbury added that the council could not get involved in matters between Ramadan and his landlord.

“The inner workings between Mr. Ramadan and his leaseholder is not something the city can get in the middle of,” she said. “But I guess what he is inferring is his lease holder won’t let him do that.”

When asked how many bike racks would be placed on the north side of Upshur Lane, Ramadan said as many as 150. He noted, however, that he had recently consulted with his attorney and had learned that installing or removing the bike racks posed a liability issue, as they were placed on public right-of-way and could be used by anyone.

“This is something the city would have to provide,” he said. “I’d be more than happy to fund the bike racks, but we cannot take any responsibility afterwards. It becomes a liability issue … If I’m released from that liability, I’m willing to do it.”

Not being able to meet the conditions set by town staff, DeLuca then withdrew his motion. For his part, James said the town would not waive liability.

“Our legal team’s not going to do that,” he said.

After further discussion, Councilman Will Savage made a motion to deny the Ramadan’s request. The motion passed unanimously.

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.