Commentary

printed 01/18/2019

As the Ocean City officials consider their next move in their effort to clear the Boardwalk location occupied by Dumser’s through a lease with Nathans Associates, we can only hope they have a better reason to pursue the case than what has been presented in public.

Otherwise, it would seem to be a pointless and expensive exercise to continue, considering that the stakes were lowered dramatically almost two years ago, when Judge Dale Cathell effectively ruled against both parties.

Although the case was declared a victory for the city, it didn’t win anything, as Cathell ordered Nathan’s off the property, but also directed it to demolish the building it erected decades ago.

The building, and the opportunity to rent it for more money, was what the city wanted. Without that, all it would get from the deal is open space.

Cathell, in essence, split the baby, depriving both parties of what they desired, much as King Solomon proposed to do when two women claimed to be the mother of one child.

Given Cathell’s order to vacate the premises, Nathans took the obvious next step by filing an appeal, which concluded with the Court of Special Appeals finding that Nathans owned the property by right of adverse possession.

Understandably, the city can’t like that result, but if it does choose to seek some legal remedy to that situation, we have to ask, to what end? If it did win back ownership, it could not erect a new building and lease it to the highest bidder without venturing into the realm of private enterprise, where it has no business being — any more than it already is.

And absent any public discussion of what its plans for the property would be, the city’s motives for continuing are suspect. Does it want to win simply to prove a point and is that really worth it when there’s no return on the investment?

If Nathans/Dumsers had gone up in the last 10 years or so, clearing the site might be understandable. But it has been there so long that it’s part of the landscape and the Boardwalk experience.

The city needs to give the public a reason it can get behind. Otherwise, it should drop it and move on.

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