City looking to buy Hall properties

City looking to buy Hall properties

(April 4, 2014) The land deal that will enable construction of a new Ocean City Beach Patrol headquarters, as well as secure the Ocean City Development Corporation’s “model block” ambitions, is on the table for a grand total of $816,000.

City Council heard and passed the first reading of two ordinances related to the measure last week, with final passage expected Monday.

The first finalized a property transfer that will have the city take possession of OCDC’s lot on the corner of Talbot Street and Philadelphia Avenue, while OCDC will get the lot at Dorchester and Philadelphia that houses the current OCBP building.

That building will be vacated after the coming summer, as the city will be building a new OCBP facility on the Talbot Street lot that is slated to be ready by the 2015 season.

The second ordinance authorized a $216,000 down payment, and a six-year mortgage of $100,000 per year, to the Hall family for the purchase of their two lots on the northwest corner of Somerset Street and Baltimore Avenue, on the same block as the current OCBP building.

“This was the result of two years of negotiation and a lot of hard work by OCDC,” said Councilman Joe Mitrecic.

Funding for the purchase will come from inlet parking lot revenues, roughly 10 percent of which are allocated every year for OCDC. Since it does not have taxation powers itself, the city’s allowance is the group’s most consistent stream of revenue, and the inlet lot earns roughly $2.1 million per year.

With the exception of two small lots on the northeast corner, this will create a publicly owned block between Dorchester and Somerset Streets and Baltimore and Philadelphia Avenues, where OCDC hopes to design a mixed-use project that will enable downtown renewal. The project will then be marketed to an outside developer for construction.

More vibrancy downtown, in theory, will mean more parking at the inlet, and more meter revenue.

“All of the monies that come from the proceeds of this will essentially go back to the city via the inlet parking lot fund,” said OCDC President Bob Givarz.

The main impetus for the city in the deal was a readily available space to build a new OCBP headquarters, instead of knocking down the current facility and having to rebuild over a short time.

The present beach patrol building is actually the city’s former police headquarters, which was abandoned by the Ocean City Police Department in 1991 when the Public Safety building was completed. Since then, the Dorchester Street complex has continued to deteriorate, forcing OCBP staff to work amidst mold and peeling asbestos paint.

The city had expressed some desire to relocate the OCBP further north, to a central point in town, but OCDC’s interest in having a larger resident base downtown – and the beach patrol’s historic attachment to the area – convinced the city otherwise.

As part of the deal, however, OCDC will contribute 35 percent toward paying off the bond debt for the new building. The city borrowed $2 million for construction of the facility, whose latest designs call for 9,477 square feet on three stories.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas was the only dissenting vote Monday.

“I have not voted in seven-and-a-half years here for the city to purchase any more property in town,” Pillas said. “That was part of my platform, and I’m sticking to it.”

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