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City Council Finalizes Somerset Plaza Changes
OCEAN CITY - A little over a month has passed since the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) proposed a change in the ordinances dealing with Somerset Plaza downtown and this was the week the OCDC got to see their proposals finalized and set in stone.
In an attempt to shape their downtown vision and breathe some life into the plaza this season, OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin and President Jay Knerr came before the council back in February with proposals to change ordinances on bike riding in the plaza and conducting business in the open along the street.
The first ordinance to pass on its second reading was ordinance 2007-5 that amended chapter 62 of the city code concerning commerce taking place on Somerset Street. Originally, the code prohibited peddlers and solicitors from taking part in currency exchanges on the Boardwalk and Somerset Street, but the change was proposed to allow the Segway rental company EC Glider and certain retail carts in the plaza to be able to conduct their business outside.
According to OCDC statements in the past on the idea, the change in the ordinance will help vendors to get a feel of the market along the heavily, foot-trafficked street. Should the area be profitable, OCDC hopes the vendors will decide to move to a more permanent location such as Somerset itself and rent a building out for further business expansion.
Ordinance 2007-5 was approved for the last time without any further discussion with a 5-1 vote due to Councilwoman Margaret Pillas being against the changes and with Councilman Jay Hancock absent.
The second ordinance voted on, ordinance 2007-6, dealt with the riding of bicycles and Segways along Somerset Street, something that was prohibited in the past. The resolution lifts that ban somewhat and makes it so bikes and Segways would only be prohibited between 10 and 2 a.m., the same rule that applies for the Boardwalk.
According to OCDC, this change will allow the street to see more activity in the early morning hours with hopes that the a.m. energy will spur further activity throughout the day.
Ordinance 2007-6 was unanimously approved without any further discussion and with Councilman Hancock absent.
When the changes were first presented to the council back in February, there was a little hesitation from council members to make a decision right away. After a lengthy discussion, the council soon decided to table the issues until they could be discussed separately at another council meeting when OCDC representatives could present more information on their recommendations.
A couple of weeks later on March 13, discussions were rekindled and concerns with unsafe bicycle traffic during peak hours and a gold rush of street vendors in the open-air commerce of the plaza plagued council members. However, there was some give and take on both sides leaving both the council and OCDC pleased with the new changes.
A week later on March 19, the ordinances OCDC felt were important to the future success of the plaza were drafted and all passed their first formal readings, a huge step that contributed to the finalization of its vision.