(May 10, 2019) Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company representatives last week asked the City Council to consider redrawing boundary lines to accommodate an expansion of Fire Station No. 5 on Keyser Point Road.

City Solicitor Guy Ayers, however, had another idea: just give them the land.

According to a proposal written by fire company President Jay Jester, Station No. 5 currently has three small live-in suites.

“With the explosive interest in our live-in program, future needs are rapidly becoming present challenges,” Jester said. “Additionally, we currently have the building’s apparatus bays fitted to capacity, yet have many tens of thousands of dollars worth of utility vehicles and support trailers that must be kept outside in the elements year round.”

Jester added expanding the firehouse would also allow for extra storage and office space.

“We currently store many items on the apparatus bay floors, cluttering the area, and many times reducing distances between walls and apparatus,” he said. “The Ladies Auxiliary has also been asking for office space for many years now and is forced to share the president’s small office area.”

The fire company would pay for all costs associated with the boundary line adjustment, according to the proposal. The transfer would include two parcels, a triangular-shaped “Parcel A” totaling 33,304 square feet, and a nearly square “Parcel B” that includes 42,089 square feet.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins, who worked on the proposal with Jester, said the City Council acquired a nearly 10-acre parcel of land in 1944 for a solid waste department and storage. Adkins said he has no current or long-range plans for the portions of land being requested by the fire company – especially “Parcel B,” which is presently underwater.

“They may have the opportunity and the ability through contacts in the community, other developers, other wetland mitigators, wetland banks and things of the sort to achieve beneficial use of this land,” he said. “For what it’s worth … DPW [the department of public works] has no interest in it.”

Jester said a local philanthropist who has wetlands mitigation credits offered to transfer enough of them to the fire department to allow them to develop on the wetland.

Ayers asked why the land was not simply being deeded to the fire company.

“Whatever legal mechanism is necessary to yield support that would allow the fire company to acquire the two areas … I would support that,” Adkins said, adding he just assumed redrawing the boundary lines would be the easiest way to get county approval.

After some discussion, Ayers recommended the City Council vote for the proposal, subject to the county’s authorization.

“I think you need to run this by the county and … if they give their approval, then we pass the ordinance and just convey that property to them,” Ayers said.

Councilwoman Mary Knight moved to approve the motion, which was seconded by Councilman Matt James. The vote in favor was unanimous.  

Josh Davis is an MDDC award-winning editor and reporter at the Bayside Gazette and Ocean City Today newspapers, covering Berlin and Ocean Pines, Maryland. He is the author of three novels, including 'Vanishing is the Last Art' (2012). He lives in Berlin.

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