By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Aug. 30, 2018) A new group calling itself Concerned Citizens of Ocean Pines has started an online petition to remove construction materials from the community association’s swim and racquet club park.
The area was used as a staging ground for bulkhead repairs for about a decade up until 2016, when materials were reportedly moved. Then, in May, construction vehicles, dumpsters, and raw materials for bulkhead repairs returned and have been left unsupervised at the highly trafficked park area.
According to an online statement, “The Ocean Pines Swim and Racquet Club Park was originally intended for use as a park and recreation area. It is currently being used as a storage area and staging ground for bulkhead repairs and presents a dangerous and unsightly situation.
“As a property owner of Ocean Pines, I request that the Swim and Racquet Club be returned to its originally intended use as a park and recreational area. I want the staging and bulkhead repair, maintenance and storage area permanently removed from the area located adjacent to the Swim and Racquet Club.”
Robin Tomaselli, one of the cofounders of the group, said homeowners who have been vocal about the issue during public meetings over the last several months plan to keep pressuring Ocean Pines leadership until a decision is made.
Several members of the OPA Board of Directors during a public meeting on Aug. 19 vowed to look for alterative staging areas, but Tomaselli said there are still concerns because a recently drafted request for proposals for a new bulkhead contract apparently includes an option to continue using the swim and racquet area as a staging ground. The board is expected to address the matter during a Sept. 1 work session and possibly take a vote during the next regular board meeting, scheduled Sept. 8.
“Some of the people in our group believe that they’re going stand by their word, and they’re going to agree that it doesn’t belong there and it’s never going to be there again,” she said. “I’m not quite as optimistic and neither are some of the others, so we’re just trying to be ultra-proactive.
“We’re just the faces that show up at the meetings, but we’re representing an entire neighborhood of people,” Tomaselli continued. “We want to go into that meeting on [Sept. 1] with a petition that shows how many people agree with us, just so it holds a little more weight than them looking at our familiar faces and hoping the problem goes away.”
Tomaselli said safety is her main concern.
“It’s a humongous safety issue,” she said. “It’s safety first, environmental impact issues are second, and third are preservation of our property values. To me, each one of those by themselves is enough reason. With all three of them combined, it’s the easiest decision [the board] has to make.
“I’m not saying that we have figured out where all that stuff goes, but it’s not really Ocean Pines’ job to figure that out and it’s certainly not the residents’ job to figure that out,” Tomaselli continued. “The people that need to figure that out are the people who are sending in the marine construction proposals for work. It’s a lot of money and, if they want that money … I’m sure they’ll come up with some creative idea of where to put it.”
General Manager John Bailey has said moving the staging area would almost certainly increase bulkhead repair costs.
During a July board meeting, he said a contract for repairs on West Mallard Drive was $167,000 and a 15 percent increase would be necessary to move the staging ground.
At the time, he recommended the board direct him to do so, but a vote failed 3-2 because several directors said they needed more information.
Tomaselli said there are two solutions to the money issue: either “find money in the budget” to cover the cost increase, or disperse the amount among the roughly 1,500 to 2,000 waterfront lot owners.
“That would be the fair way to address it, if they’re not going to include more money in the budget,” she said of the latter option.
She added although only a small number of homeowners were affected in terms of their property values, “we have no idea what the environmental impact is and how long that would last.”
“From a safety standpoint, there’s no amount of money that should trump the safety of the people who live here, and who visit and utilize that park,” Tomaselli said.
To view the petition, visit www.change.org/p/concerned-citizens-of-ocean-pines-maryland.
A Facebook page for the group is viewable at www.facebook.com/Concerned-Citizens-of-Ocean-Pines-562103647556207 or by searching “Concerned Citizens of Ocean Pines.”
“I hope what we can soon report is that Ocean Pines and the board and the general manager hold public safety, environmental impact and our property values at a very high regard, and that they do the right thing,” Tomaselli said.