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Ocean City to condemn boat ramp property

(Aug. 1, 2014) The Town of Ocean City will initiate condemnation proceedings on land it wants for the proposed 64th Street boat ramp, following multiple failures over the past several weeks to buy the property or to obtain an easement to use it.

Property owner Robert Kirchiro said earlier this week that he had pulled back from offers by both the city and the owner of Dead Freddie’s Restaurant, the property adjacent to his, to buy the land.

“I don’t want to do business with them,” Kirchiro said. “It’s dirty pool.”

City Solicitor Guy Ayres said on Wednesday that he had sent a letter to Kirchiro and his partner, Matin Maghsoudzadeh, notifying them that the city intends to condemn.

“The council president has instructed me to proceed with condemnation,” Ayres said. “The city’s offer is still on the table, but if he won’t accept, I’m instructed to file in circuit court.”

The City Council passed a resolution in June authorizing condemnation if further negotiations were not fruitful.

The issue has muddied considerably by the dual interests of the city and Dead Freddie’s in acquiring Kirchiro’s land, which is mostly underwater and is assumed by its would-be purchasers to have limited development potential. However, given the density rights that would come with the property were it to be merged with an adjacent parcel, its value could be substantial, according to Kirchiro. He also said he had an offer from the restaurant at one point that was close to his asking price of $250,000.

That deal disintegrated, he said, when local developer and Realtor Peck Miller stepped in to represent the restaurant and used the possibility of condemnation in an attempt to force down the price.

Kirchiro said he had no idea that Miller was a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, and claimed that he had inside information as to how far the town was willing to press the threat of condemnation.

Miller, however, countered that he knew nothing above what was being publicly reported, and was simply seeking the best deal for his client given the circumstances.

However, a message from Dead Freddies’ owner, seen by this newspaper, indicated to Kirchiro that a “good source” had provided information that the city was not going to accept Kirchiro’s counter-offers to build a boat slip partnership.

Kirchiro’s suspicions were further fueled by the fact that he was getting competing offers from the same office, as one of Ayres’ law partners, Jim Almand, was serving as an attorney to Miller and Dead Freddie’s.

“He may have gotten a letter from this office, because Jim Almand is counsel to Dead Freddie’s, but it did not involve me,” Ayres said this week.

The targeted property consists of 32 mostly submerged lots on the south side of 64th Street, for which Kirchiro paid $202,240 to his grandfather’s estate in 2007. Given the highly selective development potential, the lots were valued at half that for tax purposes and Kirchiro and Maghsoudzadeh later petition to have the assessed value lowered to $10,000, much to the city’s skepticism.

But if condemnation were to go through, this small amount would be what Kirchiro and Maghsoudzadeh would get for the property, a value they say is appropriate for the land’s current condition but far below its relative development value.

That value has been taken away, they say, by the city’s use of Miller as a middleman to acquire the property without condemning it. Dead Freddie’s could simply give the city an easement through the land, to the benefit of both.

“I know in the long run, I’m going to lose,” Kirchiro said. “The best I can hope for is some kind of compromise, but they haven’t given much room for that.”

Without Kirchiro’s property, the city could still build the ramp, but only a single lane – two would be needed to alleviate the overload at the 94th Street boat ramp, the only city-owned ramp in the resort.

Given current wetlands protection laws, Kirchiro is unlikely to get clearance for any improvement on the land unless it was publicly funded. The city already has $4 million of mostly state-provided funding in place for the project.

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