Ocean City Cracks Down on Obscenity in New Sidewalks

Ocean City Cracks Down on Obscenity in New Sidewalks

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A new ordinance puts the onus on Ocean City property owners to safeguard their sidewalks from vandalism.

By Donald Wittkowski

Admit it, how many times have you been tempted to scratch your name or leave your handprints in the wet concrete of a freshly poured sidewalk?

But when vandals come along and draw vulgar words or images in the concrete, that same sidewalk can become a public display of obscenity.

Hoping to keep one step ahead of the graffiti artists, City Council has approved a new ordinance that requires homeowners to repair their new sidewalks, curbs or driveways if vandals strike.

“We’re looking to make sure there are no offensive drawings or anything like that,” City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson explained.

The city is looking to prevent offensive words or drawings, according to Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson, seated next to Mayor Jay Gillian.
The city is looking to prevent offensive words or drawings, according to Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson, seated next to Mayor Jay Gillian.

Under the measure, homeowners who obtain a city permit for sidewalk, curb or driveway work for their property will be responsible for keeping watch over the site until the concrete hardens and cannot be defaced.

But if vandalism or damage does occur, the homeowner will have 14 days to fix the concrete at their own expense. Homeowners who fail to make repairs within that timeframe will risk having the city do the work for them and bill them for the cost.

“This is just a way for people to be responsible when they are pouring concrete and not to walk away,” Mayor Jay Gillian said.

In a worst-case scenario, the city tax collector would be able to slap a lien against the property and put it up for sale if the homeowner did not pay for the repairs. Homeowners would have 90 days to make payment to avoid being declared delinquent, according to the ordinance.

Homeowners will have 14 days to repair damaged or defaced new sidewalks, curbs or driveways.
Homeowners will have 14 days to repair damaged or defaced new sidewalks, curbs or driveways.

Council approved the ordinance by a 7-0 vote during its April 13 meeting. There was no comment from members of the audience during a public hearing before the vote was taken.

However, Councilman Michael DeVlieger said he had received a call from a constituent who was worried that the ordinance would apply if homeowners or their family members simply put their initials in the wet concrete.

McCrosson assured DeVlieger that small or innocuous things such as someone’s initials would not count. But she added that the city will consider things on a case-by-case basis, using “common sense” as a guide for what is acceptable and what is not.