The town of Ocean City has handed the historic Carousel Hotel and condominiums an ultimatum this week: Fix up or shut down.
A complaint was filed in District Court Wednesday to force the Carousel to comply with fire and building codes, said City Solicitor Guy R. Ayres III. On Tuesday, fire and building inspectors gave the property 10 days to meet code standards.
Mayor James N. Mathias said it's the first time he can remember that such action has been necessary to force compliance with safety regulations. The action is also the latest installment in a three-year series of legal actions involving the landmark hotel and condominium.
If a tornado, high wind, storm or transformer blowout should strike, Mathias said, residents would have to evacuate in the dark.
"They would have no electricity in that building," the mayor said. "It could wreak havoc there."
The Carousel was one of the first high-rises on the beach when it was constructed in 1962 by Bobby Baker, an aide to Lyndon B. Johnson later convicted of income tax evasion.
Now the property, which includes a hotel and 190 condominiums, has 10 building code violations and 30 fire code violations, Ayres said. Violations range from improperly painted sprinklers to unsafe railings, as well as a non-working emergency generator.
There are also visible stress marks on the foundations, Ayres said.
Like other high-rises of similar vintage, the Carousel has been required by the town to upgrade so it meets safety codes, Mathias said. Unlike others, however, the Carousel has not complied, owing to long-standing and serious disputes among the condominium owners.
Although violations have been reported at the Carousel over the past three years, he said, two new developments raised concerns this week.
One was a recent vote by the condominium's council of unit owners (the condo association) not to levy a special assessment to bring the building into compliance with city and fire codes, he said.
The other was a report from Ocean City's fire and building inspectors, who said the building's emergency generator was not working.
On Wednesday, the owners' council voted to create an office to oversee the improvements, he said, and to communicate directly with the fire marshal and building inspector as progress is made.
Pub Date: 12/20/96