(Jan. 25, 2019) Despite the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis ruling in Nathans Associates favor on Dec. 21, the Town of Ocean City continues to fight the outcome and intends to ask the court to reverse its decision.
Ownership of the Boardwalk Dumser’s Dairyland property was called into question in 2016 after a long-term agreement between the city and the building’s owners, Nathans Associates, expired.
Located on the east side of South Division Street near the south end of the Boardwalk, the structure was built in 1905 and owned by Nathan Rapoport. Since the 1970s, the two-story building has been home to a Dumser’s Dairyland ice cream parlor.
In 1966, Rapoport reached an agreement with the city to demolish the existing structure and erect a better building on the site with a commercial interest on the Boardwalk level, and living quarters above on the second floor. The package offered two 25-year agreements between the town of Ocean City and the heirs of Rapoport, now known Nathans Associates.
The case went to trial in April of 2017 and Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Dale Cathell gave an opinion in favor of the town of Ocean City. Nathans Associates were required to remove or demolish the structure by the end of the year in 2017, according to Cathell’s ruling.
Nathans Associates appealed to the state’s Court of Special Appeals, which found that, based on the evidence provided by the city, maybe the building sits in a city-controlled public easement and maybe it doesn’t.
The burden had been placed upon the Town of Ocean City to establish the property was located within city boundaries. However, the information provided by the 1876 deed, with hand-written site plans, proved to be illegible. An aerial photo also provided as evidence showed the current location of the property as well as surrounding buildings.
As a result, the original Worcester County Circuit Court decision issued in 2017 was reversed and the case will be remanded back to the circuit court level to incorporate last Friday’s ruling, removing the order to demolish the property.
However, members of the Ocean City Council appear to be pushing back against this decision, requesting the Court of Special Appeals reverse its decision.
“The Town has no desire to displace Dumsers,” Mayor Rick Meehan said in a statement Tuesday. “Once this matter is resolved, the Town will be in a position to negotiate an agreement with Dumsers that will be beneficial for them as well as the taxpayers of Ocean City. This would mean the money they are currently paying to the heirs of Mr. Rapoport would instead be rightfully returned to the taxpayers. This money, for example, could be used to offset costs of additional police officers, paramedics or lifeguards.”
Some members of the council approved of the Mayor’s decision, with Councilmen Matt James thanking him during a Tuesday, Jan. 22 council meeting.
“I would like to thank Mayor Meehan for releasing a statement today about the Rapaport case and the city’s position,” James said. “I believe at the end of last week, Councilman Paddack made a Facebook post that said we were attempting to crush a business and I think it’s great that the Mayor made it very clear that is not our intent. We’re just looking out for the best interest of the public.”
The post James referred to showed Councilman Mark Paddack’s strong disapproval for continued legal action against Nathans Associates.
“Continuing the Nathans Associates case through the courts at the expense of the taxpayers … while the cost in dollars now is ever so small, just makes no sense to me,” Paddack said in the post last Saturday. “To continue and attempt to crush a business that generates revenue and fosters memories for hundreds of families makes no sense to me.
“What the town will gain in the court of public opinion is unfortunately more public resentment, lack of trust and vocal outcry,” he continued. “I encourage the public to please take a deep breath, I know this is frustrating news for thousands of you. Remember the court decided in favor of Nathans on appeal. No new evidence can be presented to the court. The court will decide whether or not to reconsider the case.”
Regardless of the choices made by the city council, matriarch Mona Strauss continues to express her disapproval over the town’s decisions in a letter she wrote to Ocean City Today.
“I have read with dismay the many inaccuracies, misstatements, assumptions and untruths that have riddled the statements made by Mr. Meehan in recent days,” Strauss said in the letter. “Since the Town of Ocean City has requested that the Court of Special Appeals reconsider their ruling that Nathans Associates is the owner of the land, I will respond after the court renders its decision about the city’s request.”
Dumser’s on the Boardwalk is set to reopen in March.