New Property Ordinance Would Bring Historic Homes In Line with Other Ocean...

New Property Ordinance Would Bring Historic Homes In Line with Other Ocean City Houses

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A marker at the corner of Third Street and Ocean Avenue describes the history and boundaries of Ocean City's Historic District.

By Donald Wittkowski

Ocean City’s historic homes would face the same property maintenance requirements as every other house in town under an ordinance introduced Tuesday night by City Council.

City Business Administrator Jim Mallon explained that the measure will bring historic homes in line with the property standards that apply to non-historic residential and commercial properties.

It will ensure that the city’s property maintenance code will apply equally to every building, historic or otherwise, Mallon said.

“Everyone is treated the same way,” he said in an interview after the Council meeting.

Mainly, it will allow the city to issue violation notices to the owners of historic homes if their property becomes unsightly, such as overgrown grass or trash in the yard, Mallon said.

Council introduced the ordinance by a 6-0 vote. First Ward Councilman Michael DeVlieger abstained from voting because he lives within the city’s Historic District.

However, DeVlieger said he will join fellow Council members Keith Hartzell and Antwan McClellan to speak to homeowners in the Historic District about the implications of the ordinance.

City Council voted 6-0 to introduce an ordinance that would make historic homes adhere to the same property maintenance standards as other houses. First Ward Councilman Michael DeVlieger abstained from voting because he lives in the Historic District.
City Council voted 6-0 to introduce an ordinance that would make historic homes adhere to the same property maintenance standards as other houses. First Ward Councilman Michael DeVlieger abstained from voting because he lives in the Historic District.

A public hearing is scheduled at the Nov. 10 Council meeting. Council is expected to take a final vote on the ordinance after the hearing.

The ordinance would incorporate the hundreds of homes within the Historic District under the property maintenance code. The district’s boundaries roughly run from Third to Eighth streets between Ocean and Central avenues, although there are some offshoots.

“This proposed ordinance would authorize the City’s Code Enforcement officers to require maintenance of historic properties in the same manner and to the same extent as non-historic properties,” Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson explained in a memo to Council.

Ocean City’s property maintenance requirements are based on the 2015 International Property Maintenance Code, an umbrella group of standards for homes and businesses.

McCrosson, in her memo, said the city can currently force the owner of a historic home to correct a maintenance violation only when it would cost more than 25 percent of the assessed value of the house, an extremely high threshold.

The proposed ordinance, though, would correct “the deficiency” that largely exempted historic homes from the same property requirements that apply to the rest of the buildings in town, Mallon said.

“It also allows us to treat everybody equally, whether you’re a historic property or not a historic property,” he said.

Mallon stressed that there have been no problems with the maintenance of historic homes. He said the city simply wants to have the same property standards for all buildings in town.