OCEAN CITY – The transfer of properties between the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) and the Town of Ocean City moved ahead this week in what will eventually result in the construction of a new Ocean City Beach Patrol headquarters.
Last August, the OCDC proposed an offer to the Mayor and City Council that granted the go-ahead to have a new Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) headquarters built through a land swap with the OCDC and the Town of Ocean City.
The OCBP currently occupies three buildings on Dorchester Street that used to serve as the old home to the Ocean City Police Department and District Court facilities. In 1993, the buildings were deemed unsuitable.
A new facility for OCBP has been on the town’s to do list for many years, but last year City Engineer Terry McGean presented the Mayor and Council with a report on the building that revealed significant issues, such as numerous ADA violations, nonfunctioning sprinkler systems, asbestos siding, cracks in exterior masonry walls and all buildings’ first floors are below base flood elevation.
OCDC and city staff recommended the new headquarters be located downtown on three parcels purchased by the OCDC between Talbot and Dorchester streets that currently stands as a gravel parking lot next to OCDC’s office.
OCDC proposed to help make the new facility occur in a cost efficient manner through a land swamp of OCDC parking lots in the Dorchester/Talbot streets block for the city-owned lots where the existing headquarters stands in the Dorchester/Somerset streets block. Once the existing facility is demolished, those lots will then become temporary parking lots instead.
The OCDC will pay 35 percent of the cost of the new OCBP building and site improvements over the 20-year bond life, not to exceed $2 million. These assisted funds would come from the Inlet Parking Lot fund, which is the dedicated funding source, established a decade ago to fund downtown revitalization projects. The OCDC will manage this temporary lot on the Dorchester/Somerset streets block to provide additional parking until a redevelopment project is underway.
On Monday evening, the council was presented with an ordinance on first reading to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to exchange certain properties with OCDC.
The ordinance authorizes OCDC managed lots in the Dorchester Street/Talbot street block that will be exchanged for town owned lots in the Dorchester Street/Somerset street block, which supports the need for a new OCBP home and assists in the revitalization efforts of downtown Ocean City.
“This land exchange will provide the town with OCDC-owned properties at S. Philadelphia Ave. and Talbot St. to build its new beach patrol facility,” said OCDC President Bob Givarz. “We believe everyone realizes the need for a new beach patrol facility, and this land exchange will allow it to happen. The OCDC also believes in the need for the new facility and it is a major reason why we recommend the funds from the Inlet Parking Lot be applied to the construction of this facility. The land assemblage project on the Dorchester/Somerset street block for revitalization has been a major idea of the OCDC since it began in 2000, and this approval will bring it much closer to fruition.”
The council voted to approve the ordinance on first reading in a vote of 6-0 with Council President Lloyd Martin absent.
The next ordinance on the table also on first reading was to approve the purchase of property, 312 Baltimore Ave. and 106 Somerset St. The selling price is $816,000 to be funded by Inlet Parking Lot revenue.
“The OCDC is in support of the purchase of the two properties being presented to council tonight. The purchase of these two properties fits one of our long-term goals of downtown redevelopment and revitalization. The funds to purchase these properties would be from the Inlet Parking Lot fund that was established to fund redevelopment activated and land acquisition. The acquisition of these two properties will enlarge the real estate on that block that can be offered to a future private redeveloper for a new redevelopment project in the center of downtown Ocean City,” Givarz said.
Councilman Joe Mitrecic added the purchase of the property is a key component to the model block.
“It consolidates our property with one small piece of property in between, and we were fortunate enough to buy it at a price under market and finance it for a very low interest rate. It took two years of negotiation, a lot of hard work by OCDC, and again this is something that OCDC will be paying for out of their parking lot money,” Mitrecic said.
The council voted to approve the ordinance on first reading with a vote of 5-1 with Councilwoman Margaret Pillas opposed and Martin absent.
“Although this sounds ridiculous, I have not voted in my seven half years to purchase any property in town. It was one of my platforms when I was elected both times,” Pillas said.
After addressing previous concerns, the latest design of the headquarters is on path to the full Mayor and City Council for final approval.
In late December, the Recreation and Parks Commission met with City Engineer Terry McGean, Ocean City Police Captain Kevin Kirstein, Ocean City Beach Patrol Lt. Ward Kovacs, Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster, OCDC Vice President Jay Knerr and Jack Mumford of Becker Morgan to discuss the design of the new downtown building.
After making changes to cut costs, rearrange indoor space to be more convenient for both the beach patrol and the police department and the buildings’ flood elevation, the design will be before the council next month for approval.
OCDC Past President Todd Ferrante praised the council for its actions Monday.
“It is a significant night because OCBP has been in existence since 1930 and never has had a place to call home, and I know we have had this discussion for many years,” Ferrante said. “We have talked about trying to find them a home, and trying to find them a place to stay. We have one of the best beach patrols in the US and I know you are all aware of that, and tonight paves the way for us to build the beach patrol a home and have a public safety building downtown that will serve all the citizens of Ocean City well.”