Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo

410-641-0039

OPA board talks format, tax-exemption and municipality

OCEAN PINES—The only
vote taken during the Ocean Pines Board of Director’s first work session on
Sept. 10 was on a policy that would establish how the OPA’s work sessions would
operate, approved by a vote of 4-2-1.

The work sessions will
be considered special meetings, allowing directors to discuss board matters informally,
ParliamentarianDan
Stachurski said. They are subject to
the Maryland Homeowner’s Association Act and OPA’s by-laws and required to be
conducted in public, except for issues subject to nondisclosure under the HOA, he
said.

The work sessions will
be announced three before meetings with an agenda provided in advance, Stachurski
said.

Vice President Sharyn
O’Hare said OPA members can participate in the work sessions within a certain
structure of discussion: Once a proposal is presented for discussion, board
members can make a round of comments, followed by a round of discussion from
the public.

Director Marty Clarke
took issue with a provision to suspend the OPA by-laws upon being recognized by
the chair of the work session.

O’Hare began the
first discussion session with the issue of the Budget and Finance Committee
possibly establishing an Internal Revenue Code Sec. 501(c)(3) tax-exempt
organization, which could receive charitable trusts, grants and donations.
Unlike the OPA, which is a Sec. 501(c)(4) private-owned entity, the tax-exempt
organization would be able to receive funds for hardship cases, special
projects like recreational activities or even recreational equipment, O’Hare
said. She said she wanted to hear from members of the board before raising it
as an issue at the regular meeting.

OPA President Tom Terry
clarified that the OPA would have to have no control over the entity and would
have to operate at an “arm’s length” distance with its operations. The only
thing that the board should have to do, he said, would be vote to be willing to
accept money the organization might offer and provide guidance on how that money
is spent. While he was adamant the board should not be involved with the
proposal, he left the matter open to someone else who might want to create it.

Director Bill
Cordwell pointed out that the idea was Budget and Finance Chairman Dennis
Hudson’s and was not officially proposed by the committee.

Director Jack Collins
asked why not allow a task force or committee to form outside the OP system.
“It would be arm’s length. If it comes from the membership rather than the
board I think it would have a heck of a lot more strength,” he said.

Secretary Terri Mohr explained the idea
originated when Hudson determined
that the OPA’s  Sec. 501(c)(4) private-owned
entity status barred it from receiving grants and endowments. She suggested
taking the idea to the community, creating more distance between the OPA and
the proposal.

Stachurski said he wants to
see the pros and cons of the proposal from the board’s financial advisors,
auditors and attorney “before this board sits down and starts considering this.
This is not a simple procedure. It’s a tough one.”
He also stressed the opinion that no OPA revenue should be used to set up the proposed
organization. “Let’s be very clear about that,” he said.

During public comment, resident
Joe Reynolds told the board, “Essentially what you are talking about is setting
up a charitable program, even though it may be independent.” He questioned why the
board would have to be involved since the proposal does not require the board’s
participation. “We have enough to do,” he said.

Resident Chip Bertino offered
the Worcester County Veterans Memorial at Ocean Pines Foundation and the
Friends of the Ocean Pines Library as two examples of separate entities formed
for the type of functions proposed. The directors of those organizations might
be a source of information when considering the proposal, he said.

Cordwell told the board the
Budget and Finance Committee will request board approval to send a letter to
the Worcester County Commissioners seeking feedback on their potential position
if the OPA was to pursue the possibility of becoming a municipality. Cordwell
was a member of the committee before being elected to the board and now serves
as the board liaison to the committee. He said the committee wants to assess
whether the county’s response would be support or rejection before it made a formal
request.

Mohr said the motion might
be premature now. “It just doesn’t seem like it is quite ready for this step
yet,” she said.

Stachurski said he would be
bringing a proposed resolution relating to recruiting for elective office in
Ocean Pines before the board at to the regular meeting on Sept. 18. Terry said
he wanted to get clarity on how to proceed with three change orders submitted
by Harkins Builders and provide an update to homeowners on negotiations with
Sandpiper Energy.

Terry also told the board
that Collins would be the point person at meetings of the Worcester County
Commissioners, where the board is working to establish more consistent
precense.

The board recognized Outgoing Vice President Ray
Unger and Director David Stevens for their years of community service as
members of the OPA Board of Directors. President Tom Terry listed several
significant events that occurred during their terms, including the beginning of
the renovation of the Ocean Pines’ new yacht club and yacht club pool; the
opening of the dog park; the revision of bylaws and resolution; the opening of
the community center; Ocean Pines’ 40th and 45th anniversaries; the community
selling non-ethanol fuel; the influx of casino money; drainage work;
establishing golf greens; the opening of a skate park; the start of curbside
recycling; upgrading tennis facilities; and the winning second at AGH penguin
swim.