(Oct. 31, 2014) The book is finally closing on the effort to build a public boat ramp at 64th Street – but the project still has enough unresolved political intrigue to sink a library.
The Town of Ocean City confirmed this week that it has acquired the five underwater lots at the west end of 64th Street needed to build a two-lane municipal boat ramp at a price of $25,000.
The lots were purchased from Dead Freddie’s Restaurant, which recently acquired several parcels of marshland in the area from now-former owner Robert Kirchiro.
“My understanding is that Mr. Kirchiro sold all the lots to Dead Freddie’s, and they conveyed five of them to the city,” City Solicitor Guy Ayres said.
“We only submitted to it because it was a no-win situation,” Kirchiro said this week. “They’re going to get what they want, and it’s going to be at my family’s expense.”
The property in question consists of 32 mostly submerged lots on the south side of 64th Street, for which Kirchiro paid $202,240 to the estate of his late grandfather, Hartford Bealer, in 2007. Given the highly selective development potential, the lots were valued at half that for tax purposes – and Kirchiro and his partner Matin Maghsoudzadeh later petitioned to have the assessed value on the five in question lowered to $10,000, much to the city’s skepticism.
Kirchiro and Maghsoudzadeh maintain that the current assessed value is appropriate for the land’s present taxable condition, but that the development value of the land, to the right buyer, is still close to $200,000.
Earlier this year, the city threatened to condemn the land – meaning that, if the case were approved, Kirchiro and Maghsoudzadeh would receive only the assessed value of $10,000. The city’s final offer for the lots was $25,000, regardless of the owner.
Kirchiro said this week that he had gotten less than what he originally wanted, but more than he would’ve gotten from the city, by selling to Dead Freddie’s.
“I think it was better to get something and move on, rather than ultimately lose and have spent a bunch of money in court only to end up getting what [the city] offered us,” Kirchiro said.
Kirchiro has also battled with the city over his allegations that the city’s threat of condemnation was being used to force a more advantageous sale to Dead Freddie’s and its real estate representative, Peck Miller, who is also a city planning commissioner.
Miller has denied that he received any inside information or impetus from the town, and was simply working in the best interest of his client.
Kirchiro claims that a previous deal with Dead Freddie’s was squashed once Miller and the town became involved. Dead Freddie’s has been paying Kirchiro $5,000 per year to rent a portion of his land used for outdoor dining.
Most of the lots are not buildable by themselves, but would confer density rights to an adjacent property if Dead Freddie’s were to expand.
The restaurant did not return a phone call by press time.
The cost of the new boat ramp will be shared by the city and the state, with the state paying for the necessary dredging, and the city paying for the construction of the ramp itself. The town borrowed $750,000 two years ago to help pay for the project, which is expected to total around $1.5 million.
Construction of the new ramp by the city will essentially buy out the state’s stake in the current municipal boat ramp on Caribbean Drive, in the Little Salisbury neighborhood. Because that ramp was built with state funds, the city is currently limited as to how much it can charge for access and how much it can restrict use.
The ramp is consistently considered a nuisance for the residential area surrounding it. Once the 64th Street ramp is completed, the city could restrict Caribbean Drive access to residents only.
The new facility is roughly a year-and-a-half out from existence, with permitting from the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Army Corps of Engineers taking another six to nine months before construction can even start, City Engineer Terry McGean said.
“We’re trying to work on some pre-construction things now, on a parallel course with the other agencies,” McGean said. “If there are any major permitting issues, I’ll get a heads-up from the MDE or the Corps. Assuming things are quiet, we can get going on the design now so when the permit does come through, we’re ready to start construction.”
Construction itself will take up to a year, McGean said, due to seasonal restrictions on marine work. Protections for flounder, for instance, halt work every spring.
The ramp will be built by erecting a perimeter around the site and pumping out the marshland within.
“You have to put a bulkhead down both sides of the site, and then a dam between them,” McGean said. “Then you pump the water out, build the ramp, then pull the sheet piling out from the front to let the water back in.”