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Feedback To 2nd Community Meeting In Ocean City: High Rents, Sandy Recovery

Puget Sound - setting sun
Puget Sound - setting sun

We had a much stronger turnout at the last community meeting.  And we gained yet another perspective from a resident who rents here.  When you think about the need to increase residency you have to think in terms of the rental market too.  What he stated is that working families cannot afford to rents that approach $1400 / month; even a small business owner like himself.  So there’s another barrier to residency we have to solve.  He also stated that working families working service sector jobs are not being reached by our political organizations and are not being represented … that the people who run for office and do vote are often a minority interest.  If you don’t think that the people who rent here are important to this community think again.  These are people that live here.

Another barrier to residency is the lack of jobs.  And the need for smaller more affordable housing is being brought up again and again.  “We’re turning into an overgrown Avalon.  We once had a community here with things for the residents to do but affordable housing is being torn down for oversized vacation homes.”  He also objected to an overgrown police force that enforces traffic laws for motorists but not for bike riders or pedestrians.  I don’t get the feeling he thinks positive change is possible here, and concluded he was wasting his time.  It’s a shame so many people feel that way about this town.  I don’t.  We can do something about it if we want to.

Another resident complained about overpriced vacation rentals and the density of occupancy that is being created as a result.  “It’s a living hell for the residents of this town in the summer time.”  People who pay that kind of money to vacation here aren’t overly concerned about the noise and trash they create.  They leave their sense of personal responsibility at home.  There’s not enough parking.  And for what they’re paying they must assume it’s up to someone else to clean up their mess.

It was also stated that there’s a tradeoff between the density of development and the affordability of housing.  I think it’s a good point but what I see is greater density without significantly greater affordability.  And if all we’re building is more affordable vacation homes is that what we really need?  To be fair you can’t dictate the type of ownership.  But there’s also a greater profit margin in denser development and I do think its profitability that drives development here and unfortunately zoning too.  The comment came from someone who would know so who am I to question it?  I’m just not sure in practice it’s having the intended result.  We’ll see how Coastal Cottage works out.

Another resident (who is likely to become a candidate) stated that New Jersey is at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting retirees because pension payments are taxed in this state.  And everyone knows how high our property taxes are.  Add that to the cost of home ownership and it’s a triple whammy.  He also stated that modular housing is not that much cheaper than conventional (stick built) housing.  He and his wife were forced to rebuild as a result of Sandy and looked into it.  It was good to get his insight.  Some of these are issues for Trenton to resolve.

Much of the conversation turned to Sandy and the plight of the property owners.  There was speculation as to what effect increasing flood insurance premiums will have on Ocean City particularly for second home owners who are likely to be hit the hardest.  It was stated that not enough of the relief money is trickling down to the home owner.  That too many homeowners still can’t afford to rebuild.  No question there will be significant turnover.  Is our government doing enough to help existing property owners?  I hate to say this but I think it true.  Sandy is being looked at as a business opportunity by some people.  There’s too much pressure to sell out where the cost of remediation and compliance is too high.  When you change the zoning code and make existing homes non-conforming you reduce the value of those homes, and in some cases adversely affect the ability to borrow against them, making it even more likely that property owners will opt to sell out.  So there’s the issue of complying with FEMA and its requirements for flood insurance (which is your choice as to whether or not you want to comply) and then there’s the City that is forcing the issue and raising the bar for property owners who do want to rebuild.  There are cost of compliance issues here we need to be sensitive to.

We also heard stories from people who got caught in a web of bureaucracy in their attempt to get help and who became stuck in an infinite loop, and found that in spite of their efforts they were no further along than when they started out.  I proposed once before that someone from the City be identified as a resource that people can turn to for help, not just for Sandy related issues, but with the local bureaucracy that is also at times impenetrable.  Too many people are falling through the cracks.  And they’re ill-equipped to deal with FEMA and the DCA on their own.

There were other topics of conversation but I’m running long.  It was stated that the requirement of the city to install lawn sprinklers could be illegal and that if they were going to require sprinkler systems for new homes they should require them within the home as a fire prevention measure.  In case you haven’t noticed new home construction is going up up up.  And if you’re 50% damaged that’s just one more added cost of compliance when you rebuild.  A call was also raised for a citizen review board for our police department similar to what Atlantic City is contemplating.  A comment in response was that police officers should be on any review board.  That makes sense to me.  What is important to the commentator is that there is some kind of independent review, particularly in matters of public safety.

Additional comments once again had to do with over development.  This theme keeps reverberating.  It was stated that flooding on this island (even tidal flooding) is worse than it’s ever been.  That statement was made by someone who was born and raised here and has lived most of her life on the island.  Finally it was stated that there are existing programs to assist younger home buyers.  So if we’re serious about attracting younger families we should be promoting those programs.  Maybe the realtors do (I don’t know.)

There have been two meetings so far and many issues have been advanced.  The next gathering will again be at Starbucks in Ocean City, February 16, 2:00 PM.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Frank February 10, 2014 at 09:40 PM
Eric - yes I realize its more about real estate and development. However, you continually discuss single family homes. I do not disagree with you. However, they cant afford to live here and where are the going to work? The state is dying my friend!
Frank February 10, 2014 at 09:42 PM
Vic - the 6 months of heaven you mention is a nice theory. However, the Winter here brings out the crazy in everyone. The complaining, bitching, moaning, groaning, finger pointing is endless! This is a cycle that repeats every year and is exhausting.
vic February 10, 2014 at 09:48 PM
true, that what keeps heaven from being boring.
Frank February 10, 2014 at 09:54 PM
Eric - you act like until you have an idea it has never been suggested or discussed. I have painfully read every one of your wordy comments. You are living in a fantasy word. Yes, I am a realist which does not equate to negativity or fatalism.
Eric Sauder February 10, 2014 at 09:54 PM
I think our first priority is to try to restore our population. That its the key to the survival of Ocean City as a community. That if we're successful it will also stimulate commercial investment. Geez Frank I've already answered those questions how many times? If you would only read the comments you'd know. I'm not going to repeat it all over again. I'm interested in hearing what other people think. The biggest difference between you and I Frank (and you pointed it out yourself) is that you are a realist (I would say a fatalist) and I'm an idealist. I simply don't believe we "can't" do what we never "tried to do." I don't deny that what you're saying is true. What is happening here is happening all over the state, particularly in South Jersey. So you look at that and say "gigs up." I look at it and say "we need to try to DO something about it." That is what our government NEEDS to do. And its too busy doing other things.
Frank February 10, 2014 at 09:54 PM
Vic - if you think that makes heaven interesting I would rather be in hell (but then again I am)
Eric Sauder February 10, 2014 at 09:56 PM
Frank most of it is on my blog Counter Point if you really want to know.
vic February 10, 2014 at 09:57 PM
my good friend, roy wagner, took me aside, looked me in the eye and said "don't worry, vic, I promise you that the life saving station will not cost the tax payer one dime. we are going to sell the city owned property at 15th and west and repay the bond that we are taking out to purchase the life saving station".
Frank February 10, 2014 at 09:57 PM
Eric - I have read your blog. You are in a continuous loop and all over the place. I have suggested numerous times that you FOCUS. Tell me Eric - are you a Pisces? If so, would explain a lot.
Eric Sauder February 10, 2014 at 10:02 PM
If the people of this town are willing to let it be run for the profitability of a relative few, fine. I'm not. What they're saying Frank is that over development is destroying quality of life in this town and is creating many of the problems we now face.
Frank February 10, 2014 at 10:03 PM
I am so sick of hearing about the life saving station. This project should have been finished and opened to the public by now -
Eric Sauder February 10, 2014 at 10:07 PM
And Vic you'll put up with anything as long as it saves (or makes) YOU money. You already said as much on this site.
Frank February 10, 2014 at 10:08 PM
Eric - what is destroying my quality of life is the constant state of negativity and bitching. I absolutely despise the mentality of most of the people here. WHat can you do about that?
Frank February 10, 2014 at 10:09 PM
Don't tell me to move - already planning on it! The South (not Florida - that is just New Jersey South) is much more positive and so is the West Coast. This place is simply miserable!
vic February 10, 2014 at 10:14 PM
statistic on population changes in the united states came out last week. new jersey had the highest percentage of any state for people who have left the state in the last year. but eric insists that he is going to have a positive attitude and therefore people will move back into ocean city. accept the facts for what they are, and learn how to work with what you have. ocean city is a tourist town, not a family town. families are the exception, not the rule. families move to upper township where the houses are affordable, have parking , and open space for children to play in.
Frank February 10, 2014 at 10:19 PM
Vic - exactly!
Frank February 10, 2014 at 10:20 PM
Of course people leave this state - Why would anyone want to stay?
kathi February 10, 2014 at 10:25 PM
You all live in a town where there is the ocean, the bay, beautiful beaches and sometimes even sun without snow. Take a deep breath, guys. So, there are vacation people, it's a resort. So there's bitchy negative people, just like everywhere else. So there's govt people and developers you think are greedy, just like every other resort town. And we have flooding .. Look at sea isle ... Stop talking to each other if it is making you annoyed. You don't need the aggravation, so shut down your laptop or pad and don't read the Patch. Go to the beach before the Nor'Easter and look at the sun, the water and say ... I'm lucky I live here because an alternative could be dismal.
Frank February 10, 2014 at 10:26 PM
Kathi - I agree with you.
Frank February 10, 2014 at 10:27 PM
I wish that blogs and online commentary were outlawed
Frank February 10, 2014 at 10:29 PM
I begged Doug Bergen to not have a comment section on his new site. If course I realize it is a necessity and drives people to the site. However, it would be nice to just read the news without having people comment. I have never cared about random opinions.
vic February 10, 2014 at 10:29 PM
I'm fortunate to be able to live anywhere I want, and I mean anywhere. I own houses in florida and in the mountains. I choose to live in ocean city because I like it here.
Frank February 10, 2014 at 10:39 PM
Vic - you are lucky if I had your means I would leave immediately
Eric Sauder February 11, 2014 at 10:46 AM
I trust Frank Worrell realizes he's not the Frank I'm responding too.
Eric Sauder February 11, 2014 at 10:54 AM
I have to say once again that this is not bitching. Its identifying problems. A necessary first step towards improving this town. Ocean City, in my opinion, was once a much more livable place and had more to offer to tourists too. How has it improved? Isn't that what we should be thinking about (how to improve?) No wonder people feel so hopeless that anything can change for the better.
WDH February 11, 2014 at 12:20 PM
Not sure which is hell...winter or summer... Honest, aside from the cold(which I think is hell) winter is nice...few cars, fewer mindless drivers... Summer? Wow...do I enjoy seeing families having fun... Having spent most of my adult life in Phila, I feel as though I'm living in Disneyland... It's a fantasy place where most everyone is polite, nice and friendly. I love being naïve...kind of suits me. So..thought for today? Fight nice guys.
Eric Sauder February 11, 2014 at 12:21 PM
Do they have you convinced that there's nothing we can do but keep on increasing the density and build more vacation homes? I'm not arguing with the statistics. Its what you do with them that matters. What I contend is that we have to try to do something about these trends. And I do think there is something we can do. We should be actively marketing this town as a retirement community and building the type of housing that will be attractive to retirees. Doing what we can to make this a more livable town. And to the extent that we can younger families too. That's a tougher nut to crack.
Frank February 11, 2014 at 12:53 PM
Blah blah blah
Parker Miller February 11, 2014 at 04:09 PM
Larger venues: Ward meetings are held in churches, and there's the Community Room at the high school that's be used for meetings. I don't know if it can be used on the weekends though.
vic February 11, 2014 at 05:51 PM
the ocean city school board has to vote to grant approval for any school facility. since this is a private venue, they would also charge a fee. you will be charged for insurance, security and custodial fees.

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