By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Aug. 23, 2018) Several new members of the Ocean Pines board of directors on Sunday promised to find a solution to reportedly unsafe conditions at the Ocean Pines Swim and Racquet Club because of construction materials and vehicles left unsupervised there.
The waterfront area, on 10 Seabreeze Road, has been used as a staging ground for bulkhead repairs.
A description of the Swim & Racquet Club Park on the Ocean Pines website reads, “With beautiful views of the St. Martin River, this park offers a picnic gazebo, a half basketball court and tennis courts. A small beach area is ideal for canoe or kayak launching. It is adjacent to the Swim & Racquet Club Pool.”
However, a portion of the park remains cordoned off, as construction materials have been stored there since May.
Lewis Frey, a homeowner since 1999, addressed the issue during the public comments portion of an organization board meeting on Sunday.
Frey said he’s walked his dog along a swim and racquet club park pathway about twice a day since moving there. Up until 2008, he said, “there was nothing stored there.”
That was the year Fisher Marine Construction began keeping staging materials there, Frey said.
“From 2008 to 2016, it was a complete disaster – each year it was worse and worse,” Frey said, with materials left onsite including kerosene, industrial welding torches, and batteries.
He said the equipment was removed in 2016, but returned to the park area in May.
“We were told, by several board members, that it would never return,” Frey said.
Further, Frey invoked the Donna Lebo motion passed unanimously by Ocean Pines homeowners during the Aug. 11 annual meeting this year. The motion requested “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.”
Director Frank Daly on Sunday asked to suspend the rules to address Frey’s comments – a rarity during board meetings.
Daly, in his official first meeting since being elected, said he toured the area during the campaign.
“I agree a construction staging area should not be at a park, provided the way that it’s set up right now,” Daly said. “If it’s fenced off, locked, gated, guarded against intrusion, I’m much more inclined to do it. That doesn’t mean that I believe it should be there.”
Frey argued using the park for anything other than as a park was in violation of Ocean Pines’ Declaration of Restrictions, which requires a 51-percent vote to change land use.
“Then you’re taking a park away where people crab and fish and all that type of thing, and you can’t do that according to the declaration of restrictions,” Frey said.
“Should it come to leaving it there, we will address that with [legal] counsel … and not violate the bylaws. You can rest assured that would be done,” Daly said.
Frey argued putting up a fence would immediately devalue the waterfront properties boarding the swim and racquet club.
“I agree and thank you for bringing it forward,” Daly said. “That will be addressed by the new board … I believe it deserves our full attention.”
He added the matter would be subject of an upcoming work session.
“Speaking as a new board member, I didn’t cause the problem, but I’m committed to curing it,” Daly said.
Director Slobodan Trendic added, “We are not ignoring you.”
“This is the organizational meeting, the next meeting is going to be the orientation meeting and then there is going to be a regular board meeting in September, and I think the board is planning to take on this issue very seriously and find a solution,” Trendic said.
Director Esther Diller, also newly elected, said she also lived near the swim and racquet club.
“This is not going to be ignored,” she said. “We will address it, but today is unfortunately not the time we can.”
Frey asked that he and other homeowners be part of any continuing discussion. During the meeting Robin Tomaselli, Rich Lebo and Nancy Weber also spoke in protest of the current conditions.
“We’re reasonable people,” Frey said. “It would be nice if we could be in on the work session and talk to you while you’re doing this. We live there.”