By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Aug. 16, 2018) Ocean Pines homeowners present during the annual meeting Saturday overwhelmingly endorsed relocating a bulkhead staging ground, but only narrowly favored introducing a noise ordinance for dog barking and opposed increasing assessments to allow underprivileged children to use amenities.
Homeowners introduced all three motions, said to be nonbinding, during the new business portion of the meeting. The two former motions were passed and the third was rejected.
Association President Doug Parks said bylaws indicated, “Issues not contained in the notice of the meeting … shall not be binding on the association or the board of directors.”
However, Parks said the votes were symbolic.
“The benefit here, from my perspective, is the issue can be brought up at a subsequent board meeting for discussion and decision, if necessary,” he said.
Alan Brodsky proposed a $100 per month assessment charge to allow “children of the lowest household [incomes] to be able to use any one of the amenities.”
Currently, the basic annual assessment in Ocean Pines is $951 per year.
Brodsky said his wife’s father lived in Florida and paid $300 a month in assessments “and nobody fussed about it. Everybody could use any amenity.”
“And they also built a theater, which brought in additional money,” he said. “I don’t know why we don’t have a stage in one of these places [in Ocean Pines]. It could be put in very easily.”
The motion was defeated, with just a small handful of people apparently in favor and the rest of the 100 or so members in attendance opposed.
Donna Kiniry proposed a noise ordinance “specifically restricting dogs barking between” 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Because the vote appeared close, Parks asked for a hand count, which appeared to show the motion carried.
“We’ll take that under consideration at the next board meeting,” he said.
Several homeowners protested continued use of an area behind the swim racquet club as a staging ground for bulkhead repairs.
Donna Lebo proposed a motion “requesting that the board consider alternate staging grounds for bulkhead repair and maintenance, and return the swim and racquet club park back to its originally intended use as a park and recreational area for the use and enjoyment of the residents who live here, and for public use.”
She said during the last five months, the area was used for stockpiling and storage of bulkhead materials and equipment including storage units, dumpsters, cranes and barges.
Materials were hauled along Seabreeze Road, “a road that is barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass safely, much less construction vehicles,” she said.
Lebo said materials were unloaded using forklifts as children and adults were nearby.
“There is no supervision by anyone to ensure the safety of people in the park,” she said.
Additionally, Lebo said several companies other than Hi-Tide Marine Construction, under contract with Ocean Pines, had used the staging grounds.
“Why these other companies are these using this area is of question and concern,” she said.
Homeowners met with General Manager John Bailey and Facilities Manager Kevin Layfield to voice their concerns, but Lebo said the board ultimately voted down a motion to add discussion of the topic to a recent meeting agenda “due to lack of information.”
“My motion is to get this issue back on the agenda, so that we can work together to resolve the issues of the park,” she said. “There are numerous concerns [and] issues, and we are requesting the board give serious consideration to turning the swim and racquet club park back to its intended use – a park and recreational area.”
Robin Tomaselli said she “100 percent agreed” with Lebo’s comments.
“We have been dealing with this issue for far longer than five months,” Tomaselli said. “I would just like to mention to everybody and remind them that, as reported at the last board meeting, the swim and racquet club is probably one of the most-used recreation areas, outside of maybe the yacht club, in all of Ocean Pines.”
She said swimmers, kayakers, paddle boarders, beach visitors, joggers and dog walkers frequented the area.
“This area is not only an eyesore – it presents a danger to all who utilize it and many of them are children. OPA is lucky … that no one has been injured down there,” she said. “And if you think an increase [in cost] in removing that staging area to somewhere else is significant, then I would suggest that you consider what the cost of a lawsuit will be when someone is injured,” Tomaselli said.
She added use as a staging ground violated Ocean Pines’ declaration of restrictions, and the area itself was within Worcester Country’s critical area … “and therefore a part of the coastal bays watershed that has continually received a ‘D’ grade.”
“Both Assateague Coastkeeper and Maryland Coastal Bays agree that, if only for the reason to improve the health of the river, OPA has an obligation and so do the marine construction companies to find alternative locations outside of that critical area buffer,” she said.
The vote appeared to be unanimous and Parks said the matter would be considered during a future board of directors’ meeting.