No Resolution On Gym Lease

OCEAN CITY – Efforts to keep a midtown gym open at least temporarily are ongoing, but as of late this week no lease and been consummated.

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.

The purchase is complex to be sure, but in simplest terms, the property went into foreclosure last year when it became apparent the former owner had fallen into arrears on state and local taxes. As a result, the property was offered at public auction and ultimately purchased by Wells Fargo.

However, because the town was not eligible to participate in the public auction during a trustee sale, Ocean City officials took the pre-emptive step to begin the condemnation process for the property.

Once Wells Fargo bought the parcel at auction, the Town of Ocean City was free to negotiate a fair market price for the property, which has led to the proposed purchase for $1.2 million. However, left in limbo through the process has been the gym business itself and its roughly 400 members.

After impassioned pleas to negotiate a lease with owner Todd Clark to keep the gym open until such times as the town needs it for the water treatment plant, efforts are underway but appear no closure to becoming formalized. Mayor Rick Meehan said this week those efforts are ongoing.

“I think the Mayor and Council is trying to make a good faith effort to resolve this and hopefully that will move forward,” he said. “From my point of view, it’s the victims were thinking about and in this case, the victims are the members. We’re making a good faith effort to resolve it.”

Councilman Mark Paddack asked City Manager Doug Miller for an update on the process and suggested the public should be privy to the ongoing negotiation efforts.

“We’ve had all of these discussions about the 67th Street gym in closed sessions,” he said. “I really think some of these things have to come out in public.”

Miller explained the ball was essentially in the gym owner’s court once again. “Last Friday, we had communication with Mr. Clark, but the lease is not back in our hands within the time-frame prescribed by the council,” he said.

Miller said what has been offered is a lease for $5,500 per month for the building and another $1,500 per month once a gravel parking lot is created next to the gym.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.