Ocean View talks outdoor liquor ordinances

Ocean View Town Council introduced an ordinance that would govern cocktail service to outdoor restaurant tables at the Jan. 3 council meeting, responding to a request from NorthEast Seafood Kitchen (NESK) proprietors.

This would be as a conditional use, requiring a new site plan, and only in the General Business (GB) district.

Council Member Eric Magill said NESK owner Matt Haley’s letter had requested permission to serve alcohol at the outdoor seating from 5 to 10:30 p.m.

Last call in Ocean View comes at 11:30 p.m., but council members expressed concern regarding the possibility of noise from late-night tipplers. Council Member Norm Amendt said he liked the early closure idea, suggesting Haley’s proposed 10:30 p.m. might be the way to go.

Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader said he had some experience with bars and restaurants in Rehoboth Beach — family members owned establishments there, he clarified. Patrons typically gravitated to those areas for the sole purpose of smoking, he said — more so than to sit outside while drinking and dining.

Schrader suggested Ocean View might want to consider Dewey Beach’s code, which he said included probably the most highly-developed ordinances in the state. Admittedly, those laws didn’t seem to be solving all of Dewey’s problems, but Schrader suggested this was likely more of an enforcement problem than the code’s shortfall.

Regarding noise from musical performers (or DJs), Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin warned council that noise ordinances were very difficult to enforce.

“Noise meters pick up all the ambient noise,” McLaughlin pointed out — and for Ocean View’s GB district, that would mean ambient traffic noise from Route 26. He said very few charges had resulted in convictions. “They’re very successfully defended in court,” McLaughlin said.

With that in mind, council directed Schrader to set an earlier “last call,” and add language that would prohibit live music or DJs in these outdoor seating areas. They planned to reconsider the modified ordinance at the next council workshop, Jan. 17.

Council members held readings on three other ordinances.

• They enacted an ordinance that aligns residential and commercial uses in the GB district — residential uses will now be governed by GB code, as far as setbacks, use of the setbacks, permitted building heights, etc.

• They cleared up some duplication, on first reading, with an amendment to the chapter relating to fees for building repairs. (The $50 fee for obtaining a permit for building repairs already existed elsewhere in code.)

• Council members also held a first reading of an ordinance to align Ocean View pension plan contribution percentages with the state pension plan guidelines that govern them.

They briefly discussed draft legislation floating around at the state, which would govern municipal elections, and unanimously decided to write a letter to the General Assembly opposing the legislation.

And finally, council debated the appropriateness of helping some property owners in The Cottages subdivision with a drainage problem. The flooding is affecting back yards — not town rights of way.

However, one of the property owners said the town was, in fact, to blame, because it had failed to prevent neighbors from bringing in fill dirt (which made the problem worse). Council agreed to spend $15,000 to install a system of pipes that would move the water toward the swale along the street.

Council Member Bill Wichmann suggested this was merely finishing the work they’d started when the town spent money to address flooding along those streets. However, as a resident in The Cottages himself (although not affected by this flooding, which is occurring between Port Royal and Seabrook roads), he abstained from the vote.

His colleagues unanimously approved the expenditure.