OC Plans To Act Quickly To Purchase Land For Park

OCEAN CITY – In an effort to rectify the situation for all parties involved, the Mayor and Council has approved an emergency ordinance to purchase the Caroline Street property that was destroyed in a fire in April.

The house, located at 111 Caroline Street, will be purchased by the city for a price of $235,000. At the City Council meeting Monday, the Mayor and Council approved the ordinance to purchase the property in hopes that the vacated, burnt house could be torn down and replaced with a green, park area.

The house previously served as the home to Marion and Richard Manning before a hit-and-run accident left their house in shambles this past April.

On the evening of April 3, the Mannings’ house was destroyed in a devastating fire that was the result of a car crashing into their home. Jay Mickell Benedict, 36, of Ocean City, crashed his truck into the Manning’s home rupturing a gas line. Benedict fled the scene of the accident in his truck, leaving the home engulfed in flames. Fortunately, the Mannings were able to escape unharmed. Their house, vehicles and belongings, however, were not as lucky. 

Benedict was arrested and pleaded guilty to driving without a license and failure to remain at the scene of an accident. He has since been sentenced to probation and $1,375 in fines and is working to contribute to some sort of settlement for the Mannings.

As for the Mannings, the loss not only left them without a home, but also devoid of priceless treasures that were destroyed in the fire.

On June 13 at the Greene Turtle North, community members came together for the “A Day For Friends Benefit,” in an effort to raise money to help the Mannings in their time of need.

With their house left in conditions not conducive to living, and most of their possessions destroyed, it was decided that selling the property would be most beneficial.

The property, located at the entrance to Ocean City at the end of the Route 50 Bridge, has been sitting as an eye sore to those traveling over the bridge. The Mayor and Council agreed that purchasing the property would not only benefit the Mannings, but would also benefit the town.

Councilman Jim Hall put his full support behind the ordinance.

“We think that it would be a great addition to Ocean City, with possibly a park in that area, so we hope to not only purchase it, but have it torn down as fast as we can get it down,” he said.

The council voted unanimously, with Councilman Lloyd Martin absent, to pass the ordinance upon first reading.

After reviewing the Mayor and Council’s wish to tear down the property as soon as possible, City Solicitor Guy Ayers suggested officials pass an emergency ordinance with the mayor’s approval. The emergency ordinance will allow the council to bypass the second reading that usually occurs in the passing of an ordinance.

The council voted unanimously, with Martin absent, to approve the emergency ordinance, allowing for the purchase of the property. Mayor Rick Meehan also gave his approval of the emergency ordinance.

“I think it’s the right thing to do and I think we need to move forward,” Meehan said. “I think it’s the right thing to do right now, and I think in the future people will look back and think it was a very wise move by this council.”

Meehan also added that the emergency ordinance would allow the eye sore to be removed quicker.

“This will start the clock turning faster,” he said.

Hall later explained that the house would be cleared and replaced with a green park that will essentially be an extension of the park located at the entrance of the town. Hall explained that it would remain a park for now until another purpose for the area is realized. For example, in the future the area could be utilized during the construction or renovation of the Route 50 Bridge.

Hall added that the council has requested permission from the Mannings to tear down the house before the settlement date. If approval from the Mannings is received, then the town could see the house torn down within the next couple of weeks.