By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City is making bulkheads a major focus of flood prevention efforts, strengthening its regulations and creating a new program to help pay for maintenance and replacement for property owners in hardship cases.
City Council introduced an ordinance in a 7-0 vote amending the city’s code on bulkhead repairs at its Feb. 25 meeting.
Before, a property owner was required to fix a bulkhead that could pose a danger to their property or another neighboring residence. The ordinance, which still has to go for a second reading and final vote, would expand the reach for the homeowner to also protect nearby homes from a deteriorating bulkhead.
City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson explained during the Council meeting that the ordinance would be strengthened to ensure that the bulkheads are in good condition.
McCrosson said the city could order private property owners to repair their bulkheads with language that emphasizes that the repair would be important for not only the homeowner and neighbor, but other properties around it.
Along with the ordinance, City Council approved several related resolutions, including one calling on Mayor Jay Gillian’s administration to identify locations and causes of bulkhead breaches in flood-prone areas.
One resolution reads in part: “Despite the substantial expenditures of taxpayer dollars and grant monies, the island still has areas of flooding which can be addressed, and, one source of flooding is damaged, deteriorated, and/or failing private bulkheads on the bay and lagoons.”
It states that the administration will “monitor private bulkheads on the bay and lagoons, particularly in flood prone areas, in order to identify those which are deteriorated and require repair or replacement…”
To help homeowners, City Council President Bob Barr will create a Council Committee on bulkheads. Specifically, the committee will assist property owners to provide information to the city administration about the deteriorated condition of their bulkheads.
Homeowners who don’t have the money to repair or replace their bulkheads may get some financial help.
Council was clear in a strongly worded resolution that should a homeowner not have the funds to make needed repairs or replace crumbling bulkheads, “The inability of a private owner to replace or replace a functionally obsolete bulkhead can affect an entire neighborhood as that bulkhead becomes an entry point for bay waters.”
If financial support is not given, it could result in “flooding ranging from nuisance to catastrophic,” according to the resolution.
Council called on lawmakers for help. The Council asked in two separate resolutions for the local state senator and assemblymen and U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew to find funding for the program for property owners who don’t have the ability to pay for the repair or replacement of deteriorated bulkheads.
“We want them to know we are trying to get things done to help,” Councilman Keith Hartzell said of the homeowners during the Feb. 25 meeting.