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Ocean City

City unclear how $6k parking fee was missed

(Aug. 9, 2013) The establishment of a new commercial parking arrangement on 66th Street seems to have thrown light on the city’s failure to collect two years’ worth of payments on a similar agreement on Jamestown Road.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said at Monday night’s council meeting that she had been made aware that a tenant of city property at 103 Jamestown Road was behind on rent.

“This is a delinquent account,” Pillas said. “I was just questioning what the process is after staff is unable to get this property to pay off its account.”

Although Pillas’ query was directed at City Solicitor Guy Ayres, City Manager David Recor quickly said that he “will respond because the account is not delinquent.”

The bill, Recor later said, had been paid earlier that day.

Although not mentioned by Pillas or any other council member by name, the lot at 103 Jamestown Road is leased from the city by the Greene Turtle. The lot is partially used by the town for a utility station, but the open area to the west of the pump house is rented by the restaurant for parking.

The terms of the five-year lease, written in 2012, stipulate that a $3,000 payment is to be made on July 1 of every year. As of Monday morning, the payments for 2012 and 2013 had not been made.

But Greene Turtle owner Steve Pappas said Tuesday that he was only made aware of the situation 24 hours beforehand that he had neglected the payments.

“We didn’t even know it wasn’t paid,” Pappas said. “Somebody from City Hall called my office yesterday morning and we wrote them a check for $6,000 right away.”

According to Recor, the city did send notices to the Greene Turtle, but had not pursed any formal action. At the same time it put to rest the parking lease with Galaxy 66, the city sought to settle its similar relationship with the Greene Turtle, Recor said.

Two weeks ago, the town finalized an agreement with the Galaxy 66 to allow the venue to rent 50 parking spaces, at an annual cost of $20,000, at the northeast corner of the Public Safety Building lot. This allows the restaurant to fulfill the parking space minimum needed to construct additional dining enclosures on its rooftop Skye Bar.

The agreement was part of a long back-and-forth between the city, the restaurant, and the county’s Board of License Commissioners, which mandated the sound-proof enclosure to reduce noise complaints.

There has always been some tension between resort business owners over the ability of some to rely on public parking to satisfy their patrons’ demand without directly compensating the city, while others are not.

“When you look at all the other places around town that rely on municipal parking but don’t pay for it … parking is definitely an issue in Ocean City,” Pappas said.

Galaxy 66 patrons have often used the municipal lot at the Public Safety building for overflow parking, but it was only after the restaurant became cornered between the city’s zoning code and the county liquor board that it was required to pay for the privilege.

Although the Greene Turtle’s lot is smaller and lower in rent, Pappas said the real cost has been the roughly $40,000 he has spent bringing the previously derelict area up to the city’s standards.

“The rent isn’t trivial, but when you look at how much I paid to landscape the thing, that’s where the real cost was,” he said.

Unlike the Galaxy 66 – where the Skye Bar’s business license is conditional on the maintenance of the lease – the Greene Turtle is not required by code to have the 13 spaces in the Jamestown Road lot.

“They do not need that area as required parking,” said city Zoning Administrator R. Blaine Smith. “It has no effect on their business in terms of the zoning code.”

The reason for the Greene Turtle acquiring the lot, Pappas said, was to provide a space for delivery trucks to park – instead of simply stopping in the westbound lane of Jamestown Road, to the south of the Greene Turtle, and creating a traffic hazard.

Cars turning onto the street from Coastal Highway were forced to go into the left lane without being able to see eastbound traffic past the trucks, Pappas said.

“It would bottleneck that intersection,” he said. “It’s actually turned out to be a great thing for both [the city and the Greene Turtle.] The trucks pull into that little area and whatever it is they cart it across Jamestown road and into our coolers in back.”

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