OCEAN CITY — Satisfied with accommodations made by the developer, resort officials this week signed off on a proposed land swap to pave the way for the redevelopment of a decades-old midtown restaurant and nightclub.
Last December, the Planning Commission reviewed a proposed site plan for the redevelopment of the old BJ’s on the Water property along the bayfront at 75th Street. The property has since been sold to another popular resort restaurant group Ropewalk, which plans to develop the bayfront eatery Windward OC on the site.
The Ropewalk group has been operated the restaurant in its original footprint this summer as the Atlantic Beach House, but the long-term plan calls for the old restaurant to be torn down and replaced with a new two-story establishment on the same site with a sandy beachfront along the water, nearly 9,000 square-feet of dining areas including over 700 square feet on a rooftop terrace and other amenities.
The project will go through multiple layers of the approval process, but the planning commission in December gave its blessing to the redevelopment concept. Last month, the Mayor and Council had before them a request to close a city-owned, seldom-used east-west alley between 74th Street and 75th Street to accommodate the redevelopment project.
Essentially what is a paper alley would be needed to accommodate the expanded parking for the establishment. Under the proposal, the town would convey the 100-foot paper alley to the property owner. In exchange, the property owner would convey an easement to the town for a 100-foot section of alley that runs north-to-south between the existing parking lot and the back of the Quiet Storm surf shop.
That alley already exists and is 10 feet wide, allowing for vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between 75th and 74th streets. With the property owner conveying an easement to the town at 10 feet wide, the north-south alley would essentially become a 20-foot wide alley. In a nutshell, the property owners would gain access to the under-utilized 100-foot east-west alley between 74th and 75th streets, while the town would get an expanded 20-foot alley running north to south between 74th and 75th streets.
However, when the land swap was first proposed last month, it was pointed out there was a utility pole in the portion of the public right-of-way the town was getting in exchange for the paper east-west alley, which would impede vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic and limit the use of the entire 20-foot right-of-way. While the Mayor and Council didn’t object to the concept of the land swap, they wanted some assurances from the developer that the utility pole would be relocated.
Attorney Joe Moore, representing the developer, at the time said he could not make that promise, but that he would go back to the Ropewalk ownership group and work out some arrangement to relocate the utility pole in the right-of-way.
On Tuesday, City Engineer Terry McGean reported to the Mayor and Council the developer had agreed to foot the cost of relocating the utility pole out of the right-of-way. In addition, the developer has agreed to repave the north-south alley when the property is redeveloped.
“This is a continuation of a discussion from a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “They want us to relinquish the rights to an east-west alley in exchange for a 10-foot easement on the north-west alley in the same block. There is a utility pole in the easement that would impede the use of the alley, but the developer has agreed to pay the cost of relocating that pole, so those issues have been resolved.”
Councilman Mark Paddack thanked Moore and his clients for making the accommodations to complete the alley swap.
“Thank you to you and your clients for agreeing to fund moving that pole out of the public right-of-way,” he said. “It’s going to be a benefit to everybody involved. That’s a great example of collaboration.”
During the discussion last month, McGean said the utility pole would have to be relocated in such a way as to keep the entire length of the north-south alley between 74th Street and 75th Street aligned properly. The alley currently runs behind the existing Station 3 firehouse at 74th Street, but that firehouse will eventually be closed and with new structure to be constructed at 65th Street.
In the end, the council voted unanimously to declare the existing east-west alley to be transferred to the developer to have no real public use. In a second motion, the council voted to schedule a public hearing on the proposed alley swap.