OCEAN CITY—The cast of the Board of Zoning Appeals is at least one member lighter today as Jeff Thaler officially stepped down from his 19-year post last night at City Hall.
However, what we don’t know at press time is whether or not there is any validity to a rumor that one or more other members of the board might be stepping down as well.
Thaler hinted during a phone interview on Monday that he had reason to believe that one other member of the Board was considering stepping down, and a source had told The Dispatch that two members were considering resignation in addition to Thaler.
However, Thursday’s BZA meeting at City Hall occurred after this paper’s deadline, leaving a bit of a mystery to determine whether or not there was any truth in the rumors.
Yet, Thaler did confirm on Monday that he was resigning and that it was “time to move on” from his position at BZA, citing time as the main reason, noting that his twin children are about to start their search for colleges, and noted an unusually light workload for his board.
“Quite frankly, there hasn’t been much for the BZA to do recently. We haven’t had a case in over two months, and since development and construction are so slow, there really hasn’t been anything happening in Ocean City that needs the board’s attention”, said Thaler; “so the timing seemed right, and I thought that now would be a good time to finally step down.”
Thaler says that he is unsure why there was such a “big deal” made about his resignation, and claimed that the town’s attempt to acquire the land on 64th street that used to be the, which is owned by Rick Laws, had nothing to do with his resignation.
“Everyone in local government has another job, and I have worked with Rick (Laws) in the past, but the town’s attempts to condemn and seize the land had nothing to do with my resignation”, said Thaler; “I just wanted to be able to tell the board personally that I was stepping down.”
Thaler sung a different tune a few weeks ago in another report, and although he doesn’t refute those comments as false, he emphasizes that the topic was not his main motivation for leaving.
“My real motivation is to spend time with my family, and help my kids get ready for college”, said Thaler, “I think this got made into a big deal because it was leaked, and I don’t know who leaked it, but I know it wasn’t supposed to be released.”
Thaler had informed Mayor Rick Meehan almost a month ago of his plans to step down from the BZA, and asked that Meehan inform the Council, but for the news to be kept from the public until yesterday’s meeting. Yet, the news got out into the public forum two weeks ago, and sparked some finger pointing amongst council members as to who was the source of the leak.
Meehan sidestepped questions about the way that the news broke about Thaler’s resignation, and focused solely on the job that Thaler did for the past 19 years.
“Jeff has done a fantastic job for the town of Ocean City”, said Meehan, “the BZA may not meet as often as other boards, but it is a very important board, that handles one of the more controversial issues that municipalities face in this day and age, and that is exceptions and variances on properties and land.”
Regardless of how many people stepped down last night alongside Thaler, the way the process works now, according to Meehan, is that he chooses replacements and brings them to the City Council for the interview process.
The BZA is made up of seven members: five active members and two alternates, but according to Meehan, there is an alternate position that needs to be filled.
“When Hank Westfall resigned, Lanny Hickman, who was one of the alternates took his place”, said Meehan, “now that Jeff (Thaler) is stepping down, our current alternate Dean Langrell will move up and take his spot.”
Council President Joe Mitrecic said that there is a spot entitled “board interviews” during the closed session of Tuesday’s scheduled City Council work session, and that coincided with Meehan’s hint that he already had two members to interview, might mean that filling the two empty spots may begin as early as Tuesday.
“I had not heard about any other members stepping down, but we’ll have to wait and see, but if we do need to fill more spots, the council did approve new education classes for board members and that is coming up very soon”, said Meehan. “Sometimes timing is everything.”