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On Ocean City’s beaches, cabanas are normally spread out across swaths of sand as sunbathers jockey for prime spots just steps from the water. But this summer, there are new rules limiting the location and size of cabanas as social distancing has become critical on the beaches during the coronavirus pandemic. The regulations lump cabanas, large tents and canopies into the same category. However, beach umbrellas and so called “baby pop-up tents” are not included.
There’s Betty, Nola, Susan, Lilly, Clark and Barney. Like many other out-of-towners, they will be visiting Ocean City this summer during the vacation season. You’ll see them on the beaches, the Boardwalk and in other areas of town popular with the tourists. However, these “visitors” won’t be spending a leisurely vacation at the shore. They will be working at their summer jobs – patrolling the skies and chasing away the pesky seagulls that have the nasty habit of swooping down and harassing the human tourists for their food. Betty, Nola, Susan, Lilly, Clark and Barney are raptors owned by Wildlife Control Specialists, LLC, a Lebanon, N.J., company that has an assortment of trained falcons, hawks and an owl.
Motorists crossing over the five bridges connecting the Cape May County beach towns along the Ocean Drive are able to pay their tolls with cash and coins again. The Cape May County Bridge Commission resumed cash payments at its toll booths on Tuesday after they were suspended on March 26 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Among other safeguards, toll collectors are now wearing masks and gloves to protect them and the motorists who stop to pay their fares.
A celebratory groundbreaking ceremony was shelved due to the coronavirus pandemic, but construction has begun on a $6.8 million affordable housing project for senior citizens who are now living in a flood-prone area of Ocean City. In the planning stages for about five years, the 32-unit Speitel Commons development is being built by the Ocean City Housing Authority next to the agency’s Bayview Manor housing complex at Sixth Street and West Avenue. City Councilman Bob Barr, who also serves as chairman of the housing authority’s board, called the project “monumental.”
Ocean City is fully reopening the beaches Saturday as a dress rehearsal to prepare for the big surge in visitors expected during the Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start to the summer tourism season. Mayor Jay Gillian told members of City Council during their meeting Thursday night that the resort is looking to reopen the beaches in a safe manner, including keeping social distancing guidelines in place to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. “We’re not going to do anything unless it’s well thought-out and safe,” Gillian stressed. He noted that he and members of his administration have consulted with medical professionals and other groups to determine the best way for safely allowing “full access” to the beaches beginning Saturday.
Ocean City will open up the beaches to “full access” beginning this Saturday, the city announced on its coronavirus information webpage. So far, beach activities have been limited to walking, running, surfing, exercising and fishing. Sunbathing, sitting in chairs, lying on towels, swimming, gathering in groups or playing group sports have been prohibited. The coronavirus information page has been updated to announce that all normal beach activities will resume on Saturday. “Full access to all beach activities will open on Saturday, May 16. Please avoid social gathering and respect social distancing guidelines,” it says.
Don’t hog the beach. Ocean City is making that point clear through a new set of regulations to prevent beach vendors that rent out lounge chairs and umbrellas from dominating large swaths of the shoreline. The new beach regulations for this summer, adopted by City Council on April 23, spell out in great detail the rules that vendors must follow while renting out umbrellas, chairs and boogie boards.
When Tim Fox bought the Deauville Inn last year, he was determined to blend the historic building’s old-fashioned charms with modern upgrades to create a more upscale experience for customers. Over the winter and spring, there has been a whirlwind of construction activity for a transformation that will recapture the atmosphere from the Deauville’s heyday in the Roaring Twenties and Prohibition era. Fox is eager to unveil the Deauville’s new look as soon as the coronavirus restrictions are lifted and businesses begin welcoming customers back to the Jersey Shore after a prolonged shutdown to slow the spread of the lethal contagion. “The first thing they’re going to do, after their jaws drop, is say, ‘Wow.’ My feeling is they will be flabbergasted,” Fox said of how customers will react to the makeover.
Ocean City will be providing some financial relief during the coronavirus pandemic for residents and other property owners who may not be able to pay their local property taxes on time. City Council approved a resolution Thursday night that cuts the interest rate for delinquent property taxes during the second and third quarters of 2020. City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson explained that the interest rate for late tax payments will now be 8 percent across the board. Previously, the city has charged an 8 percent interest rate for the first $1,500 in late tax payments and an 18 percent rate for any delinquent payments above $1,500.
In her 34 years of working in the Cape May County Clerk’s Office, Rita Marie Fulginiti has seen nothing else like it. “This is unprecedented. This is something new,” Fulginiti said. The “something” is the May 12 municipal election in Ocean City that will be conducted exclusively with mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic. No one will go to the polls to vote in-person. Fulginiti said she knows of no other election in Cape May County history that was done only with mail-in ballots. Her office is sending out a total of 9,324 mail-in ballots to Ocean City’s registered voters for the four races in the City Council election. Ballots are expected to begin arriving at Ocean City homes this week.