Ocean City Today

Controversy over Boardwalk Dumser’s to continue for now

By Katie Tabeling | Aug 24, 2017

(Aug. 25, 2017) The court battle for the iconic Dumser’s Dairyland site on the Boardwalk might not be over, as the heirs to the property are preparing to appeal a Worcester County Circuit Court judge’s ruling that the building is intruding on the city’s land.

“We will be filing an appeal because it’s important for 105 years of Ocean City history and the memory of Nathan Rapoport,” said Mona Strauss, the majority property owner and Rapaport’s granddaughter. Rapoport reached an agreement with the city to build on the land in 1966.

Judge Dale Cathell ruled in July that Nathans Associates, Rapoport’s heirs to the property, had no valid claim to the Boardwalk building after the previous agreement with the city expired in 2016.

“Nathans has never been the owner of the property upon the building sits nor has it ever been a fee simple owner,” Cathell wrote in his opinion. “As far as the record is concerned, [Nathans Associates] was a mere squatter on that land and squatted on it after it had already been accepted by Ocean City.”

The building on the east side of the Boardwalk near South Division Street has hosted several businesses since 1912. Half a century later, Rapoport struck an agreement with the city to demolish the structure and build a new and improved one.

The agreement expired in 1991, but it was renewed for another 25 years. By the time the second renewal expired, Ocean City asserted ownership rights and requested that Nathans Associates vacate the premises.

Instead, Strauss and Nathans Associates filed a civil suit claiming that the city abandoned the property. The case went to trial last April. Ultimately, Cathell ruled in the city’s favor since the property is technically on Atlantic Avenue, which became a public roadway nearly a century ago via General Assembly legislative legislation.

Atlantic Avenue is the land east of deeded properties on the Boardwalk’s west side down to the high-water line.

“There is no evidence that the town ever expressed or implied that it intended to abandon its rights in Atlantic Avenue and all the evidence indicates a continuous public use of Atlantic Avenue since before 1904 until the present,” Cathell’s opinion reads.

Under the ruling, Nathans Associates and its lease, Dumser’s, is forced to vacate the property by Oct. 31 and the building to be demolished by Dec. 31 unless a new deal can be reached.

That seems unlikely, according to Mayor Rick Meehan, who made a formal statement through Facebook.

“Dumser’s has been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to the Rapoport heirs, while the true beneficiaries of this property, the taxpayers, have received very little in return. The court has recently rendered their decision; however, the town has yet to decide how to move forward with the property,” he said. “After many years, the Town now has the opportunity to manage and maintain this location in a way that will ensure fair return and the best interest for our taxpayers.”

All discussion on Dumser’s future has been put on hold, as Nathans Associates attorney Albert G. Allen II filed a motion to stay the judge’s ruling on Aug. 15.

Strauss seeks to “pursue all appellate rights” and to demolish the building would cause “irreparable harm and economic waste” while the matter is pending, according to the motion.

Strauss said that she was moved by the public’s ardent support of her grandfather’s legacy and Dumser’s famous spot. Facebook group “Save Dumser’s on the inlet and Nathan’s Building” has 2,977 members and a change.org petition had 8,000 signatures in three days.

“I am just speechless, and it brought a tear to my eye, seeing that hundreds of people had fond memories from this that they wanted to share,” Strauss said. “One day, I’ll type all these comments up so I can keep them forever.”

The next hearing in this case is set for Nov. 5.

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