Historical Perspective

OCCA: From a Historical Perspective to Now 

Written and contributed by Jim Tweed in the 2013 OCCA Newsletter

It seems like yesterday I was the new kid on the block when I attended my first 16-34 Community Association meeting nine years ago to listen to professional Planner, Marc Shuster give a presentation on the use of the “arithmetic mean” to allow diverse residential communities to develop at a gradual pace as opposed to the radical insertion of massive buildings which were totally inconsistent with their neighbors. I was impressed by Marc’s experience and intelligence and remember the hopefulness of the 50 - 60 people gathered in the room. Most of those people are gone now due to having moved, old age, poor health or death. But they have been replaced by a younger generation whose broad interests have moved this organization both in new directions and closer to its roots.

 

Ocean City Community association began in 1949 when a group of property owners organized over concern about the construction of the Sindia Apartments. It was called the 16-28 Community Association. It continued to work for preservation of neighborhoods over community changing development by attendance at Planning Board meetings, being the moving party or supporting litigation for cases involving overdevelopment, and advocating for Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance reform.

 

During the next 63 years it attracted civic activists and leaders who advocated for many improvements from planting dune grass, stopping “sign pollution,” tree planting, benches at bus stops, trash containers for beaches, handicapped surf chairs and parking spaces at street ends, lagoon dredging, wooden beach walkways, better code enforcement, preserving historic buildings, traffic and bicycle safety, environmental cleanups and more. Members became active as volunteers on various boards such as Utility Commission, Aviation Committee, Historical Preservation Commission, Coastal Conservation Commission (now the Environmental Commission); and citizens committees such as the Save Our Station Coalition, the Haven Avenue Committee and Friends of St. James. We have sponsored or co-sponsored public meetings on such things as candidate debates, property revaluations, drainage problems, opposition to utility rate hikes, golf tournaments to benefit the rescue squad, and more.

 

Since 1949 this organization has been proactive in advocating a Master Plan that valued open space, and Zoning Ordinances that protected neighborhoods over community changing redevelopment. Some of you who have been around for awhile will remember Past Presidents Dr. Doris Palzer, Dr. Roberta Jones, Ned McCaughey, Paul Anselm, Mark Ralston, and past Vice Presidents MaryLou McDowell, Kim Baker, and former Zoning Board member and Councilman Roy Wagner.

 

In 1971 the name was changed to 16-34 Community Association. In 2008 we changed our name again to the Ocean City Community Association to more accurately reflect our island wide membership and mission.

 

The new generation was doers. For years our members voiced their frustration about the lack of code enforcement, especially dogs on the boardwalk. Not much changed until Bob Dubil stepped up. Now, in addition to the clearly posted signs on the boardwalk at each street, there are public announcements on the loud speaker, sandwich board signs on busy off-season weekends, and even officers issuing warnings. Teresa Coggshall reinvigorated the Environmental Committee and got us involved in cleanups such as Stainton’s Wildlife Refuge, Corson’s Inlet State Park and the Adopt-a- Beach programs. Drew Fasy’s Bicycle Advocacy Committee has provided leadership in advancing the goal of making Ocean City a bicycle friendly community. Bob Barr’s Technology Committee has brought us into the 21st Century. Marc Shuster keeps us informed on the city’s Master Plan review which will affect all zones including residential, business, hotel/motel and boardwalk. Fred Marcel’s Public Relations committee has improved our monthly meeting turnout by rescheduling meetings to Saturday mornings and President Curt Gronert has brought in interesting guest speakers. For almost two decades Dale Nicholas soldiered on in efforts to save the Life Saving Station which could bring a new niche (historical buffs) of visitors to Ocean City. OCCA has kept its focus on roads and drainage by periodic requests to the Administration for status updates and inviting Councilman Hartzell to give a public presentation on his ideas to speed up the process. It was a lively meeting and although there was much criticism, one thing everyone agreed on is: nothing will happen without money. OCCA sponsored an informative post-Hurricane Sandy meeting for FEMA representatives to answer questions from the public. Interest was high and the library auditorium was filled to capacity.

 

So don’t be a whiner. Be a doer. If there is something you think would improve our island, join us and together let’s try to get it done. Resort!