OCEAN CITY — Negotiations are reportedly continuing that could keep a midtown gym open temporarily until Ocean City needs the property.
Late last year, the Mayor and Council approved an ordinance authorizing the purchase of the World Gym property at 67th Street for a little over $1.2 million. The 18,000-square-foot property is one piece of a larger puzzle of properties needed for a future water treatment plant.
During a public meeting two weeks ago, the Mayor and Council learned the business and its equipment had been purchased by Todd Clark about a year ago and the original owner has remained on hand as the general manager of the gym. Following that meeting, the council left the door open for continued negotiations to keep the gym in business on site through a lease agreement.
With many of the same gym supporters and members of the public back at Tuesday’s meeting, Council President Lloyd Martin took a pre-emptive step to head off more lengthy discussion, telling those in attendance negotiations were ongoing but the details had not yet been made public.
“The ball is in Mr. Clark’s court,” he said. “It is what it is. We’ve been negotiating on a new contract with him, but that’s all we can really say at this point.”
Later during the public comment period, least one citizen made his views known about the ongoing negotiations. John Robbins asked the council to continue to work with Clark on a new lease for the facility.
“We know the ball is in someone else’s court, we just don’t know what that ball is,” he said. “We believe there should be an opportunity to keep a viable business open until the town needs the property. In my experience, the most expensive hotel room is the one that sits empty.”
Robbins related the importance of the gym as a viable business entity that could pay a lease and property taxes on the land until the town needs it, which could be years down the road, but also its importance as part of the fabric of the community.
“The gym opens its doors to the air show pilots at no charge,” he said. “It also opens its doors to the Believe in Tomorrow House for family members at no charge. It’s not only a business. It’s a source of good will for the town. It’s better to discount that hotel room rather than leave it empty.”
Mayor Rick Meehan promised those in attendance the gym owner would have ample opportunity to negotiate a new lease and everyone was entering the process with eyes and ears open.
“We’re dealing with whom we now believe is the owner of the business,” he said. “We’re working in good faith, and when you work in good faith, good things can happen. But as it has been said, the ball is in their court.”