(March 28, 2014) Ocean City is apparently as close as it’s ever been to securing a long-term agreement with Worcester County that will allow the town to expand the skate park and surrounding recreation areas.
Oddly enough, the tipping point for the deal is reportedly the county’s counterweight interest in using the city’s golf course as a means to disperse treated wastewater from the new sewer plant at Mystic Harbor.
City Manager David Recor confirmed this week that he and other city officials are actively negotiating with the county for a deal on the two parcels, located between Third and Fourth Streets. The first parcel occupies the block from Philadelphia to St. Louis Avenues, and the other from St. Louis to the bay.
Although the county owns both these plots, the city has used them since the 1978 construction of the Ocean Bowl on the corner of Third Street and ST. Louis Avenue. The surrounding area houses basketball courts, a playground, and sports fields.
Prior to the 2008 recession, the city had commissioned the design of an expansion to the skate park and a redeveloped recreation complex on the two blocks, although the improvements were put on hold due to financial constraints.
If the city now wished to move forward, as has been expressed by City Council over the past year, it would have to issue a bond for the $3 million project. But lenders are unlikely to back a bond for capital improvements on land the city doesn’t own.
“Our ultimate goal is some type of long-term lease that the bond market will consider to be ownership,” Recor explained. “My understanding is that the last time it was seriously discussed with the county, they offered a 20-year lease. Typically, with these kinds of projects, you would need a 99-year concession or something to that effect.”
The city has again this year, as part of its annual funding allocation request to the county, asked that the deed for the lots be ceded with a clause that would return possession to the county if ever the land was not being used for recreational purposes.
However, unlike previous attempts to reach an agreement, the city now has a property cession of its own that the county wants.
The newly-constructed county sewage treatment plant at Mystic Harbor in West Ocean City, which went online last month, would much better served if treated wastewater could be dispersed nearby, instead of being piped elsewhere.
Thus, the county has requested to hook in to the irrigation system at Eagle’s Landing, the adjacent city-owned golf course. Effluent from the plant would be used to water the greens.
“It’s not like they’re asking to spray sewage on the golf course,” said Worcester County Commissioners spokeswoman Kim Moses. “This is extremely clean, well treated water.”
Reportedly, the two uses – irrigation at Eagle’s Landing, and construction at the Ocean Bowl – are being pitched together, although Moses said that such an offer has yet to officially come before the county.