Ocean City Council news in brief, edition of Feb. 14, 2012

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OCEAN CITY — The following items were discussed when Ocean City Council met Thursday, Feb. 14 at the Ocean City Library. Councilmen Scott Ping and Mike DeVlieger were not present.

South end residents want more sand

The meeting room of the library was filled to capacity with residents of the south end of Ocean City; many who expressed their desire for council to act on a beach fill from 50th to 59th street.

One south end resident noted the “drastic lack of beach replenishment in the south end,” which has never been part of a federal beach replenishment project.

Meanwhile, the city’s north end is gearing up for another federal replenishment, part of 50-year agreement with the US Army Corps of Engineers. That agreement is for the beach from the north end, south to 36th Street. This project will extend to 14th Street.

The south end has suffered severe erosion, especially after Hurricane Sandy, when the ocean breached the dunes and flooded into the streets causing destruction.

“The problem started long before (Hurricane) Sandy,” said south end homeowner Don Weidner.

He said that beachgoers were forced to sit on the dunes over the summer during high tide.

Weidner said that after Sandy, more than 70,000 cubic yards of sand was lost on 59th Street and over 250,000 cubic yards on 56th Street, quoting Richard Stockton’s Dr. Stewart Farrell.

“We need sand desperately,” Weidner said. “You need to do more, and you need to move quickly.”

Linda and Milton Reisen of the 5700 block of Asbury Ave. said they are concerned about the lack of sand on the south end beaches in terms of safety, and for tourism. They pointed to the popularity of that beach for many residents and tourists.

“There’s all meters along there. It’s such a good beach that we have parking lot up there with meters,” they said.

Many more expressed the same sentiments.

Mayor Jay Gillian and business administrator Mike Dattilo both agreed that the south end is a priority and said the city is working to obtain Department of Environmental Protection permission to pump sand onto those beaches.

“No one more than I would like to get that dredge bring it down to 55th street and pump it,” Gillian said. “When it comes to the DEP and Army Corps, they’re two groups of people you do not want to mess with.

“We are doing everything that we can and I give my word to you on that,” he said. “I can promise you, and I don’t do it often … We’re going to do whatever we can.”

Dattilo said he was confident there would be a solution soon, possibly a federal agreement for the south end now in the works. He said he is confirming that DEP and Army Corps representatives can be at the next council meeting.

“I haven’t found anyone that disagrees that the best we can do long-term is to get the rest of the island into the federal area,” Dattilo said. “Ocean City has been trying to make that happen over the last three administrations.

“It is being noticed. We have very, very encouraging signs,” he said.

Council President Michael Allegretto also acknowledged the concern.

“We hear you loud and clear,” he said. “We do hear you and we do share your frustration.”

Council approves zoning changes

In a 5-0 vote, council introduced an ordinance that will change the zoning of block 11, lots 1-13 and block 108, lots 1-17 from north end neighborhood to residential single family, as per the recently adopted master plan re-examination. These properties are located on West Avenue between North and Second streets.

Councilman Keith Hartzell noted that Councilman Mike DeVlieger, who could not be present Thursday, had reached out to members of the neighborhood and those who originally developed the north end neighborhood zone, and could not find any objectors.

A public hearing and final vote will take place March 14.

A second zoning ordinance, up for public hearing and adoption, also passed 4-0, with Councilman Tony Wilson recusing himself due to a conflict of interest with his plumbing business. The zoning change expands permitted and conditional uses in the drive-in business zone and eliminates the office and bank zone, moving some properties into the drive-in business and residential zones.

One $5M bond approved, another $5M taken up for consideration

Council unanimously authorized a $5.29 million bond ordinance for improvements related to Hurricane Sandy, including $2.675 million to bolster the dunes with more sand, fencing and dune plantings. Other items in the bond ordinance include $2.05 million for building repairs and renovations at City Hall, the 29th Street firehouse, Transportation Center, and the vehicle maintenance building; $360,000 for repairs to bulkheads and decking at Second Street and Bay Avenue, 10th Street, the 12th Street fishing pavilion and Alder Lane; $175,000 for repairs and resurfacing at the 34th Street tennis courts, and $30,000 for resurfacing at the 59th Street parking lot.

A second bond ordinance, up for introduction Thursday was for $5.788 million for city improvements, including $550,000 for lagoon dredging; $2.9 million for road reconstruction and repair; $15,000 for ADA beach access paths; $690,000 for repairs to City Hall and the 29th Street firehouse; $425,000 for repair of the 15th Street playground and fountains and footbaths near the beach; $65,000 for acquisition of parking meters; $100,000 for acquisition of buildings and grounds equipment, and chairs for the Music Pier; $25,000 for public safety radios; and $1.018 million to purchase a pumper truck, mini dump truck with snow plow and spreader, utility body pick-up truck, an extended cab pick-up truck and utility vans.

City director of finance Frank Donato said these funds are related to the five-year capital plan recently adopted by council.

“Council recently adopted a five-year capital plan which as we know ramped up capital spending to approximately $10 million a year for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Donato said that this bond gets the process started. He noted that the $2.9 million for roads is nearly half of the $5 million of planned spending for roads and drainage in 2013.

Councilman Antwan McClellan asked if the meter upgrades would be for the new, electronic meters the city tested over the summer. Donato said the operating budget will include an expansion of that project into the beach and boardwalk zone, but he would discuss that at the budget workshops next week.

Councilman Keith Hartzell wanted to know if the city would receive a FEMA or flood insurance reimbursement for the repairs to the 29th Street firehouse.

“The reimbursement we get depends on the path that we take,” Donato said.

The city has two options for repairing the structure damaged during Hurricane Sandy.

“The amount of money that we’ve put aside would fund a new firehouse, if that’s the direction we go,” he said.

Donato said any reimbursements would go to pay down the bond ordinance, so it doesn’t end up as permanent debt. A second reading and public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 28.

Height change ordinance tabled, again

Council took no action on introducing an ordinance that was tabled from the last council meeting at the end of January. This ordinance deals with the height of beachfront homes between 16th and 19th streets, making it the same as what is allowed for the residential oceanfront one and two family zone (R-O-1 and R-O-2), as per the new base flood elevation ordinance adopted by council Jan. 10.

At that meeting, council unanimously approved building height and elevation changes, commonly referred to as base flood elevation plus 2, requiring homes to be constructed at 2 feet above base flood elevation. The ordinance was introduced Nov. 29, 2012. 

Consent agenda approved

Consent agenda items of note include: award of a contract for lease of the restaurant at the Ninth Street parking lot to North End Partnership of Linwood, signed to Thomas Spadafora, at a rate of $22,500 for 2013, with a 2 percent increase for the following four years; award of professional service contract totaling $54,000 with Czar Engineering for renovations to the first floor of City Hall; award of municipal public defender contract in the amount of $34,577 to Douglas K. Walker, who has served as the city’s public defender since 2007 (this is a $1,000 increase over his 2012 rate); and award of a contract to Richard N. Best Associates, Inc. for the repair and maintenance of the parking systems for the 2013 calendar year.

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