(Oct. 10, 2014) Despite having issued notice of legal action over two months ago, Ocean City government has yet to pull the trigger on condemnation proceedings for the site of the proposed boat ramp at 64th Street.
City Solicitor Guy Ayres said this week that the city has held off on condemnation – a lengthy, costly court process – under the expectation that the land may be sold to a buyer who would be more amendable to the city’s demands than the current owner.
“My understanding is that [the owner] has entered into a contract to sell that area of land to an individual who has agreed to convey the lots the city wants to the city, at the price we had offered.”
The city had offered Robert Kirchiro, who owns the property along with his partner, Matin Maghsoudzadeh, $25,000 for the five parcels needed to construct a two-lane boat ramp.
However, Kirchiro was not as confident in the deal this week as the city seemed to believe.
“It’ll be done when I see the color of money, so to speak,” Kirchiro said. “Nothing’s certain. At this point, at least, I’m buying some time.”
The property 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 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.
If the city were to condemn, Kirchiro and Maghsoudzadeh would receive only $10,000 for the land. The city has a standing offer of $25,000, which it believes is generous in comparison.
Kirchiro has also battled with the city over his allegations that the city was using local developer and planning commissioner Peck Miller, representing Dead Freddie’s restaurant, to arrange a sale of Kirchiro’s land to the eatery. Dead Freddie’s has expressed willingness to sell the needed land back to the city, or grant an easement.
Miller has denied that he received any inside information or impetus from the city, and was simply working in the best interest of his client
“I’m still interested in a deal with Dead Freddie’s, but just through them, not through the city or anyone else,” Kirchiro said this week.
Further, Kirchiro’s skepticism has been further piqued upon learning that the city was involved in resolving a clerical mistake on the deed he received from his grandfather’s estate.
“There was a bank representing the estate, and apparently there was some kind of merger where the bank changed its name, and then signed as a different bank than the one that had been appointed as Mr. Bealer’s representative,” Ayres said.
Ayres requested that the buyer interested in Kirchiro’s property obtain a confirmation from the bank prior to dealing with the city.
“It was my suggestion that we get a confirmation signature,” Ayres said.
Dead Freddie’s has been paying Kirchiro $5,000 per year to rent a portion of his land used for outdoor dining. Kirchiro’s land, although not buildable itself, would also confer density rights to an adjacent property.
Although the State of Maryland will be paying for necessary dredging, the city will be paying entirely for the construction of the new ramp at 64th Street, which will essentially buy out the state’s stake in the current municipal boat ramp on Caribbean Drive near 87th Street. Because that ramp was built with state funds, the city is limited as to how much it can charge for access and how much it can restrict use.
The ramp consistently loses money, and is a nuisance for the neighborhood around it. In order to relive pressure the Caribbean Drive facility, however, the new boat ramp will need to be two lanes.
The city borrowed $750,000 two years ago to help pay for the project, which is expected to total around $4 million, including state-funded dredging as well as the cost of the land previously purchased for the wastewater plant.
The city decided in August to submit plans for a single-lane boat ramp, to be built entirely on its own property, in order to get the state and federal permitting processes started. If and when land for a second lane is acquired, the applications could be amended.
The permitting process typically takes about nine months, with construction expected to take another year to 18 months, according to City Engineer Terry McGean.