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Pines resolution ‘hot topic’ as residents question rules

(Feb. 5, 2015) Ocean Pines Resolution M-02 became a hot topic of debate during a public meeting on Thursday, Jan. 29.
The resolution, currently listed under review, “establishes policies for all Ocean Pines amenities,” according to the community’s website.
Information on the site said the resolution was submitted for board review, and the board directed it to the Marine Activities advisory committee for comments and recommendations “to be returned by Aug. 15, 2014.”
The resolution came up during public comments by Ocean Pines resident Anna Foultz, who complained that her nonprofit was having trouble booking space in the community without incurring fees.
Mary Evans, another resident, echoed Foultz and said she previously held fundraisers at the community center without having to pay for the space.
“Since last August … all of a sudden fees started coming out limiting equipment,” she said. “I understand there are few facilities. I understand you only have so many chairs, however, when they’re not being used, then the other groups should have access to them.
“What is the criteria that tells me … this makes you a nonprofit organization? You have to pay, you don’t have to pay, this is the equipment you can have, this is the equipment you can’t have,” Evans continued.
Former Bylaws and Resolutions Committee member Jim Trummel said he also came to the meeting to discuss M-02.
“The board agreed back in September that I would be the one … to come up with some form of draft of M-02,” he said. “I am at the point where there are things that I need to review with [General Manager] Bob [Thompson]. Now it’s come up.”
Trummel said the resolution “clearly gives the responsibility to the general manager to establish fee schedules for the amenities,” which would then become part of the budget process.
“It also clearly gives him the scheduling responsibility with the amenities,” Trummel added.
The current draft of M-02 gives first priority to board of director meetings, followed by Ocean Pines Association meetings, OPA department programs and events, Ocean Pines community organizations, OPA members or resident of Ocean Pines, non-OPA community organizations and “businesses and other persons.”
Board President Dave Stevens said he had not seen anything from Trummel’s committee, which he “heard a rumor” existed.
“We can’t do anything until we see something,” Stevens said.
Thompson clarified that the group was a task force rather than a committee, which are restricted by Ocean Pines bylaws.
“Instead of just pushing it aside or making the decision myself, I reached out to a couple staff people that are helping me … review M-02,” Thompson said. “The notes are not, in fact, in this year’s budget because it’s not ready to be put out there yet. We’re just kind of kicking around the pros and cons to come up with the best possible solution.”
Stevens said it was unacceptable that the board would potentially see a resolution without having information and input from the community in advance.
“That is not going to happen,” he said. “If we have to form our own working group – and we’ll [do] it in the open, I can guarantee you that – to get the input from the community and go over it, then we’ll do that.”
Thompson argued that he had “every right” to gather input from the community.
“You can meet with whoever you want to do your job,” Stevens said. “To do my job, I need the input from the community and I have to understand what’s put in front of me, and I have to understand the rationale behind it. I have to understand the pros and cons of it, and I don’t hear that the way you’re doing your job.
“I am making a point as strongly as I possibly can that we are not going to accept something that comes from you without getting the input from the community,” Stevens continued.  
Reached for comment following the meeting, Stevens said he had not had a chance to review M-02 further.
“I just haven’t reviewed it and thought it out, and I don’t know what Mr. Thompson is talking about, and I don’t know what his advisors are doing,” he said.
Thompson, meanwhile, insisted that he is permitted to “seek coaching and advice anywhere I see fit to make me smarter about my recommendations for the board.”
“I know that some say there are super-secret meetings – they’re not super-secret meetings,” Thompson said. “Folks want to share information and be helpful, but they don’t want to fall under the unnecessary criticism or scrutiny for trying to share their thoughts or express their opinions, so I provide them a forum to do so.
“I don’t make the final decision on a lot of these items,” Thompson continued. “The board is the governing body and the board makes those decisions, so my ability to seek advice from those around me who have more information than I do – I choose different ways to do it, whether it’s getting a small group of community members or business people or whatever it may be. That helps me make my recommendations to the board. After that, the board the board can like it, dislike, ask for more information.”
Thompson said he is continuing to explore his recommendations for how various groups interact with amenities.
“We’re looking at all of the users,” he said. “When you have a community of 12,000-plus residents, you have different demands for many, many wonderful organizations, whether they’re for-profit or not-for-profit.
“With so many demands from so many great organizations we’re just trying to take another look at how we effectively and efficiently utilize the space,” Thompson said. “It’s a limited resource for the amount of demands we have and we’re just trying to do it in the fairest possible way.”
Addressing nonprofit requests, Thompson said he was “not sure the profit versus nonprofit status is really the driving factor.”
“Our membership pays for the facilities, so I really have to examine what’s fair for the membership as a whole, and then how do you apply that so we get the highest and best use for the majority of our residents,” Thompson said.