Trimper to ride boardwalk again

Ocean City stalwart to remain open while creating a financial rescue plan

October 19, 2007|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN REPORTER

There is a next year in Ocean City, at least one more season for the Maryland resort's signature business - the 117-year-old Trimper Rides.

After squabbling with tax collectors since spring, members of the closely held family corporation say they will keep the attraction open in 2008. They hope to buy time for state and local officials to come up with a rescue plan that would preserve the boardwalk arcades and rides that have become synonymous with a place generations of tourists have visited.

About a dozen family stockholders gathered in Ocean City this week, still facing spiraling tax bills and internal disputes that threaten to scuttle the company founded by Baltimore tavern owners Daniel and Margaret Trimper in 1890.

"We decided it was premature to just close up with some potential solutions waiting in the wings," said Doug Trimper, a spokesman for the fifth-generation family business. "We're waiting for our final tax assessment appeals to be completed and to see whether some kind of tax district or other type of zone can be created to hold down increases in the future."

The family said in the spring that it was considering selling the amusement business - and the valuable boardwalk property it sits on - because of skyrocketing property tax bills. The assessed value of Trimper properties was $24 million in 2004 and jumped to $62.9 million this year. That meant the tax bill increased $387,000 last year and an additional $914,000 this year, Trimper said.

In recent months, the Trimpers have held talks with state and local officials about creating a special tax district or other zone where tax increases aren't based solely on the potential use of land.

"I'm very optimistic," said 79-year-old Granville Trimper, who has spent his life running the conglomeration of boardwalk arcades and mechanical rides that employs more than 300 workers every season. "I believe that pretty much everybody wants us to stay, but we're going to have to have some help."

The tax district could include five of the 21 properties (over 2 1/2 city blocks) that the family owns at the southern tip of the 10-mile-long Atlantic beach, said Doug Trimper, 55.

Bill Hopkins, Trimper's first cousin, said the family plans to meet again in early spring to develop a business plan.

"The majority of the stockholders want to hold onto our legacy," said Hopkins, a North Carolina architect. "We want to fight for it."

Paul Ruben, who covers the amusement industry for Park World magazine, said there are numerous examples nationwide of special tax districts that were created to protect historic arcades and parks.

"Trimper seems to have gone about building support in the right way," Ruben said. "It's too valuable an asset for their community to lose. Local and state government need to step up."

State economic development officials have been supportive but say that creating a special tax district must start as a local initiative that has the support of Worcester County and backing from the county's legislative delegation.

"Everybody seems to be at the table talking; that's really the important thing," said Del. James N. Mathias Jr., a former Ocean City mayor. "Nobody wants to lose Trimpers, but there are other large property owners who'll be thinking the same thing."

Many business leaders see Trimpers as the cornerstone of marketing and image-building for the resort, which has always billed itself as a family vacation spot.

"This is huge for Ocean City. Trimper rides have been here since there was an Ocean City," said Joe Mitrecic, president of the Town Council. "We're willing to do anything we can to help them stay. I don't want to imagine an Ocean City without Trimper's rides and on the boardwalk."

chris.guy@baltsun.com

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