OC To Spend $80K For 1.87 Acres In WOC

the eight years or so since the completion of the Park-and-Ride in West Ocean
City, town officials have
been looking for a site to mitigate just under two acres of non-tidal wetlands
impacted by the project, but they have finally found a suitable site albeit
with a fairly hefty price tag.

Because the construction
of the Park-and-Ride impacted tidal and non-tidal wetlands, the town of Ocean
City as owner of the facility is required to find a suitable site to replace,
or mitigate, the disturbed areas in kind. It’s a practice common in development
projects where wetlands or trees that are removed or destroyed are planted in
other areas to create a net-zero loss.

In the case of the
Park-and-Ride, Ocean
City officials have been
searching for over eight years to find a site suitable to mitigate 1.87 acres
of non-tidal wetlands disturbed by the project to no avail. There was a site
identified at the Ocean
City Municipal
Airport, but state
officials rejected it.

Town officials then
contacted the State Highway Administration (SHA) to see if there was an
opportunity to piggy-back on one of its projects, but that also failed.
Finally, an attempt was made to pay into the state’s fee-in lieu program, but
that too was rejected. Finally, the town discovered a 1.87-acre parcel owned by
a private citizen who was using his larger piece of property for a similar
mitigation project.
Public Works Director Hal Adkins came before the Mayor and Council last week
seeking approval for an ordinance authorizing the purchase of the parcel.
Adkins explained the cost of the property would be $80,000 an acre, which at
1.87 acres, making the total price tag just under $150,000. Adkins also
explained the town will have no responsibility for the property after the sale
is completed.

“The property owner has
to do all the work at his expense,” he said. “He will monitor the site and
plant and replant as necessary. Our involvement ends with the purchase of the

Town officials did not
question the need for the mitigation site, but at $80,000 an acre, the price
tag did raise a few eyebrows.

“Don’t you think $80,000
is expensive for one wet acre in Worcester
County,” asked Councilman
Jim Hall.

Adkins responded, “Yes,
but we don’t have any other property. It’s been an exhaustive eight years and
26 days to say the least. Although it may sound expensive, it’s not unheard of
to pay $200,000 an acre for mitigation projects like this.”

In the end, the council
approved the introduction of the ordinance authorizing the purchase.