Ocean City’s beach will look quite different next year with the advent of cabanas being sold by some beach stand operators. These will not be widespread as certain limitations were placed on them, but they could be popular among some beach-goers, specifically families with young kids who need to be shielded from the sun. What was interesting to me was the City Council approved these things despite the Ocean City Beach Patrol’s objections. Captain Butch Arbin was specifically concerned about how the cabanas would block the view of lifeguards, saying, “these cabanas would create a visual barrier on 100% of the days…I’m not against granting permission for additional types of rental equipment, but this particular piece would introduce a new challenge to the duties of our surf rescue technicians.” The council made a concession to the captain’s concerns, saying they must be placed behind the lifeguard stands on any given day. Besides this objection, it will be interesting to see if beach stand operators are successful selling these cabanas. It’s no secret for years these folks have been struggling making a profit, and this will give them something to sell that they can’t find at the beach discount outlet on the corner. That is, at least for now.
Avi Sibony, of Sunsations fame, is not one to speak publicly much, but last week he made his presence known at City Hall during an Ocean City Planning Commission meeting. Sibony was blunt when it came to discussing the future of his 45th Street Village. “I’ve been trying the last three years to fix the shopping center and spent $700,000 into fixing it and it’s just not going to work,” Sibony said. “I have tenants in, then they fail, and they leave and then I have to start over again. The only thing I have to do is bulldoze the entire thing and build a few good retail spaces in there, but right now, that shopping center is dead. I’ve tried to save it, but it is dead. It’s either going to stay dead or we can make it such an attractive space that is unlike anything you’ve ever had before back there.” Sibony’s comments are certainly true, and that’s obvious from watching the property struggle for the last 10 years. This so-called shopping center continues to be a scar on the town’s landscape, and I look forward to the day it’s completely demolished and replaced with something new. What exactly that future will be is unknown at this point, but it seems everyone involved agrees the status quo is unacceptable.
A sacred cow as far as taxes go in Maryland has long been the excise on alcohol. That topic was thrust into the spotlight last week as a study by Johns Hopkins University professors suggests a 10-cent hike in a drink, fueled by a per-gallon tax increase, would result in millions in new revenue and curb spending on associated social programs. An editorial in The Sun last week said, “The higher tax would raise about $214.4 million in new revenues for a state that is already facing a budget shortfall next year of as much as $2 billion. Without the tax increase, the state is likely to reduce local aid, a decision bound to pressure the counties to raise property taxes – if not next year, then soon. … Polls have long shown a majority of Marylanders favor an alcohol tax increase. Voting nay on alcohol taxes next year may cause producers and distributors to pour a lot more money into campaign coffers, but it won’t help state delegates and senators win re-election.” The editorial points out Maryland ranks 48th in liquor taxes per gallon, ahead of only Wisconsin and Colorado. There’s no indication this tax will be increased, but legislators across the state have said over the last year that everything will be examined to narrow the gap between expenditures and revenues in the next budget. This is something local liquor license holders will need to keep a close eye on.
Perception is not always reality, but in the case of local rainfall the numbers confirm we are getting hammered with the wet stuff. According to weather.com, precipitation totals at the Ocean City Municipal Airport show November was an extremely wet month and December is on a similar pace. In November, 5.54 inches of rain fell at the airport. The average for the month was 3.16 inches. In the first nine days of December, 3.93 inches of rain have fallen, compared to the average for the month of 3.21 inches.