(March 1, 2013) Potentially significant changes are under way for the means by which the city garners grants for its downtown revitalization projects, as the town and the Ocean City Development Corporation are working to qualify Ocean City’s downtown district for Maryland’s “Sustainable Community Designation” program.
The SCD system, first authorized via 2010 legislation crafted by Gov. Martin O’Malley, seeks to re-organize the state’s myriad of community development programs under one umbrella with a consolidated set of guidelines and goals. One of the major initiatives to be re-designated under the SCD system is the Community Legacy program, which has been OCDC’s main source of grant funding for the past decade.
“It’ll kind of replace the existing community legacy plan, which we’ve been following for the last 10 or 11 years,” said OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin. “It spells out items in our community development plan, and what we’re going to seek in state funding for that. The key will be outlining what we believe we’re going to pursue funding wise.”
Although the town of Ocean City will be the formal applicant for the designation program, most of the state’s re-development funds to the municipality have been administered by OCDC, the city-backed non-profit that sponsors redevelopment and urban renewal in the resort’s often-underinvested downtown area.
Under the Community Legacy system, OCDC has identified a state-sanctioned “priority funding area,” consisting of most of the island below 17th Street. In this area, the organization has administered a number of redevelopment and reinvestment programs, including small business startup grants, assistance for façade and exterior renovations that meet OCDC aesthetic designs standards, and incentive funds for environmentally-friendly energy renovations.
“Once [the SCD] replaces that plan, we’ll still apply for Community Legacy funds each year,” Irwin said. “I assume, at this point, we’ll be looking at duplicating the geographic area we have right now as well.”
By pulling all of its community development funds under one program, the state – according to the SCD application – is seeking a “simplification of the targeting of state resources into a single focus are called ‘sustainable community areas.’”
These areas are to utilize mass transit, land reinvestment, and eco-friendly renovations to maintain the state’s core communities and prevent the divestment and outward growth that often plagues older urban cores.
“What the state is trying to do is consolidate…so that the priority funding area is understood and goes all the way up the chain,” said Ocean City Director of Planning and Community Development Matt Margotta. “It’s basically the state’s vision for not increasing urban sprawl.”
But with the widening of the program’s mission, Ocean City may now find itself competing for state grant money with locations – such as large urban areas, transit hubs, and de-commissioned military bases – that it has never previously been in the running with.
“Now that there’s more competition, whether or not they put more money into it is a big question,” Irwin said.