Ocean City —
Ocean City Council on June 14 rejected introducing an ordinance which would remove Ninth Street from the Special Improvement District (SID).
Council President Michael Allegretto suggested the ordinance, which would allow businesses along the Ninth Street corridor from Bay Avenue to the alley between West Avenue and Asbury Avenue to not pay a special tax for improving infrastructure and promoting events.
Allegretto said the impetus for the ordinance was a letter written by Ninth Street business owners demanding their businesses be removed from the Special Improvement District, because they believed they weren’t receiving any benefits for paying the SID tax.
“It came down to how come they’re paying for it and these other people are paying for it and they’re benefiting the same if not more because of their location,” Allegretto said.
The ordinance was defeated 3-2, with Councilmen Keith Hartzell, Roy Wagner and John Kemenosh voting against it and Allegretto and Council Vice President Karen Bergman voting in favor.
Councilman Scott Ping was not present. Councilman Tony Wilson recused himself from the vote, citing a potential conflict.
Under the auspices of Main Street Ocean City, the city operates three SIDs: a portion of Ninth Street, Asbury Avenue from Sixth to 11th streets and the Boardwalk from Sixth to 15th streets. Member businesses pay a special tax based on linear store footage. The taxes fund special promotional and advertising events and capital improvements.
The Ninth Street SID pays $10 per foot up to 87 feet and $5 over that; the Asbury Avenue SID pays $20 per foot up to 47 feet and $10 over that, and the Boardwalk SID pays $26 per foot up to 47 feet and $13 over that.
The Ninth Street SID pays $17,790 towards the SID, while the Boardwalk pays $87,495 and Asbury Avenue pays $78,922.
Main Street Executive Director Marsha Shallcross asked council not to remove the Ninth Street businesses from the SID.
She said funds are used to promote the entire district, including a “Shop Local” campaign, touting Ocean City’s many retail and restaurant options.
“Everything we do is to bring people into Ocean City. We feel we could do so by making the downtown a destination for shopping year-round. We don’t want people to come here only in the summer. We want them to come here any day, year-round,” Shallcross said.
Shallcross said some on council initially supported keeping Ninth Street intact in the SID.
“When people come to Ocean City over the Ninth Street bridge, they are exposed to all of those businesses. The majority of businesses on Ninth Street are open year-round. Ninth Street is the gateway to our town and we focus heavily on those businesses,” Shallcross said.
In February, Ninth Street business owners cited the recent Route 52 causeway improvements, which included new sidewalks, light fixtures and landscaping for the Ninth Street corridor as a reason they shouldn’t pay into the local SID. If the state was providing capital improvements courtesy of the causeway project, they reasoned, why should the businesses along Ninth Street contribute to the SID?
The local budget process determines the SID tax for each district, based on the SID’s goals and plans.
Allegretto said the Ninth Street SID contributes to events sponsored by Main Street Ocean City.
“I brought this forward because residents brought this forward and felt it was unfair. I can see the unfairness and how they’re paying and how other areas are not,” Allegretto said.
Hartzell said although the budget is minimal, it is significant and the Ninth Street corridor does reap the rewards of belonging to the SID.
“If we unofficially ask Main Street to look at a reduction for Ninth Street, I think they would do it. I would rather give Main Street the ability to do that,” Hartzell said.
Bergman said council created an ad hoc committee to study whether Ninth Street could leave the SID.
“I’m disappointed to find a council that appointed an ad hoc committee and the ad hoc committee came back with a recommendation and we’re not respecting that,” Bergman said. “They (Ninth Street) really don’t feel as tax-paying citizens that their money is being used to promote their businesses.”