Resort officials concerned about disruption caused by activities planned near inlet

(May 24, 2019) Some Ocean City Council members on Monday night took exception to separate proposals for events on the beach that they said might be disruptive to others or might set a precedent for future activities.

One was not voted on, while the other was permitted by a narrow margin and after considerable debate.

First, City Councilman Dennis Dare said he wasn’t a fan of letting bicycles of any sort on the beach, as was proposed during a Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Committee the previous week.

During that meeting, Tres Denk of the Eastern Shore International Mountain Biking Association asked about using “fat tire” bicycles to offer guided tours during certain hours. He explained riders could let the air out of the wider tires to allow for better traction on sand, similar to the over-sand vehicle guidelines for jeeps and trucks at Assateague.

The consensus during the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Committee meeting was that Denk could be allowed to host a “bikes on the beach” event this fall as a trial run.

“The beach is … for peaceful enjoyment,” Dare said on Monday. “We’ve taken exception to having windmills offshore, as far as visual pollution goes. We have restrictions on dogs, noise [and] ball playing on the beach.

“Every year it seems like somebody would come into City Hall and want to sell sodas on the beach, or suntan lotion. And we’ve been consistent throughout the years to keep the beach a place of peaceful enjoyment,” he added.

Beach near inlet

Resort officials on Monday questioned whether or not certain events would disturb the sanctity of the beaches, near the inlet. 

Dare said a special event is different, but he was not in favor of disturbing “the solitude of being on the beach.”

City Councilman Tony DeLuca said fat tire bikes and riding on the beach were part of a new craze. He said the committee favored a special event, as a trial run.

“If we did anything … we might follow the rules of bikes on the Boardwalk, with hours,” DeLuca said.

Currently, bikes are restricted for Boardwalk use only between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day.

“It will come before the mayor and council,” DeLuca said, adding, “We’re not even close to anything like that.”

Councilman Mark Paddack had another thought – was riding on the beach even possible for the average beachgoer? 

“I’m open to seeing what happens with a special event, however in the last eight years, I spent over 2,000 hours on that sand, in that surf and on that beach,” Paddack said. “As a certified mountain bike rider in my previous career [as an Ocean City police officer], even with the fat tires, the sprocket and so forth just is really not conducive to mom, dad and the kid [riding on the beach].”

Paddack said beach riding is generally only possible after a storm, “when it rips that soft burn of sand that’s built up six or eight feet … and it creates a hard base. I’m open to hear about it, but the reality is I don’t think Joe Blow citizen will be able to pull it off [using] what we have out on our beach right now,” he said.

Councilman Matt James asked if the city had a problem with people riding bikes on the beach. DeLuca replied that Special Events Director Frank Miller thought that it could be an issue, in the future.

DeLuca said Denk had asked to allow bicycles on the beach during the upcoming Jellyfish Festival, but “the committee had issues with that.”

“That’s why we said, whoa, we’re going to test this in the fall and see what it looks like during a special event,” DeLuca said. “It is something that is starting to become more and more [prevalent].”

James, like Paddack, said bike riding on the beach was so difficult that he doesn’t see it becoming an issue. The City Council did not vote on the matter.

Paddack later took issue with another proposed event, to allow the “Ty UNC Daycation 4” on the beach – with a live deejay – from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, Aug. 17.

“When I read this, I saw a lot of red flags,” Paddack said, adding he didn’t yet see any comments from the police department.

Paddack said the event has run the three previous summers, but without live music. He said the event would bring four buses and about 200 people, and then later travel to a popular mid-town establishment that serves alcohol, and finally to Delmar.

“Without pointing fingers, I can recall during my past career being in the inlet when those four buses came,” he said. “I’m wondering whether or not they have their buses passes for dropping off. Number two, the buses stay parked in the fire lane for the three-hour time period [of the event].”

Paddack recalled walking out on the beach after the event one year and seeing “trash, trash and more trash.”

“And in that trash was alcoholic beverages,” he said, adding he would prefer to table the matter until police could review the request.

“The red flag to me is this is a booze cruise,” Paddack continued. “It’s all fun and I’m OK with that – but not on our inlet beach on a [Saturday] morning … and the addition of a deejay being out on the beach playing music does not sit well with me.”

Paddack also recalled an incident several years ago on North Division Street.

“What was supposed to be just a simple [event] turned into a rather ugly situation for the town,” he said.

Councilwoman Mary Knight said she was also concerned about the allowing live music on the beach.

“My concern is the fact that they have a deejay,” she said, also citing Dare’s previous insistence that “the beach is for peaceful enjoyment.”

“We allow boom boxes, or whatever you want to bring,” she said. “I don’t think you need a deejay. I think it starts a precedent.”

James countered the applicant appeared to be willing to work with city officials and beachgoers, and turn off the music if it becomes bothersome. He added the resort already has ordinances to prevent drinking on the beach.

“If they’re saying they’re not going to drink and we have police in the area, they probably won’t be drinking on the beach,” he said. “I support the event.”

Councilman John Gehrig agreed.

“We have jets flying over our sky, much louder than our noise ordinance,” he said. “We have vert ramps and Dew Tour bowls and concerts, and we have all kinds of stuff on the beach, all the time … that’s why it’s before us as a special event. It’s not a precedent – we do it all the time.”

Paddack countered in his experience as a resort police officer, the event was “not consistent with what the Town of Ocean City does when it puts on its events.”

“We might have ‘control’ and we can walk out there and ask them to turn it down and we can deny it next year – in the meantime, we have a massive melee out on the beach, like we had on North Division Street,” Paddack said. 

“I look at things from a different perspective of actually being out on the concrete,” he continued. “This is a private event, [with] 200 people, and who knows where it’s going to go from there … Councilwoman Knight, you’re right – we don’t need a deejay on the beach.”

Despite the objections, the council voted 4-3 to allow the event, with Knight, Dare and Paddack opposed.

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