State: Concrete pathways on northend beaches violate law

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City has two options: Tear up concrete or apply for permit after the fact, facing possibility of fines

Stenton Place Stenton Place

OCEAN CITY — Two and a half weeks after the city’s Public Works Department poured a concrete pathway on a north-end beach, the state Department of Environmental Protection issued the city a notice of violation for “failure to comply with its CAFRA permit,” said DEP spokesman Larry Hajna.

Hajna said Tuesday that the notice of violation had been issued on Feb. 21 following a Feb. 15 inspection of the sites at St. James Place and Stenton Place.

He indicated that the DEP became aware of the possible violation after being contacted by a Gazette reporter for comment.

The work at St. James Place, the northern end of the boardwalk, was done earlier this month. The work at Stenton Place, a block north of St. James, was done last year to enhance beach access, Public Works Director Mike Rossbach told The Gazette in a story that was published Feb. 8. The story said the work to improve access at St. James Place was done at the request of homeowners in the immediate area.

Tuesday, a week after the DEP issued the notice of violation, Rossbach said the notification “hasn’t come across my desk” and referred questions to business administrator Mike Dattilo. A message left with Dattilo’s office requesting comment was not returned by the end of the city’s business day Feb. 28.

Hajna said the city is required to inform the DEP of its intentions prior to undertaking projects that affect access to beaches. Although the city failed to do so in both the case of St. James Place, where the concrete path is approximately 50 feet long, and the case of Stenton Place, where the concrete path is approximately 30 feet long, only one notice of violation was issued, Hajna said.

Issuing the notice of violation is first step in the DEP’s enforcement process. The second is getting a commitment from the city to remedy the situation.

“The city has two options,” Hajna said. “It can remove the pathways or it can apply for a permit after the fact.”

Applying for a permit after the fact may or may not result in fines, said Hajna, adding, “We are primarily looking for compliance, not to fine.”

Although the notice of violation does not set a deadline for response, Hajna said, “We expect a response as soon as possible.”

If the city chooses to apply for permits after the fact, the state Division of Land Use Regulation will review the required paperwork.

The Army Corps of Engineers regulatory department concluded it has no jurisdiction over the work the city performed, spokesperson Richard Pearsall said in an email. The corps is the lead agency in the multimillion-dollar beach fill project in Ocean City, including regular follow-up replenishment projects.

“It would not require a permit as it did not impact wetlands and did not impact the beach itself (the area up to the mean high tide line),” he wrote. “Nor did it constitute a breach of the dunes, as there was already access to the beach through the dunes at that point.”

Pearsall further wrote that the maintenance of the beach is left to the local sponsor, which in this case is the state.

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St. James Place St. James Place

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