Park-And-Ride Not Likely For Workforce Housing Site

OCEAN CITY — It now appears the Park-and-Ride in West Ocean City is no longer the front-runner as a potential location for one or more seasonal housing projects, with the focus shifted to other locations in and around the resort.

Last month, the Mayor and Council got a presentation from the president of Holtz Builders out of Wisconsin expressing a desire to build one or more dormitory-style seasonal workforce housing projects in the resort area. Holtz Builders has had success in developing seasonal workforce housing to help address labor shortages and provide clean, safe and affordable accommodations for employees, both international J-1 visa students and domestic employees. The company has expressed an interest in developing such a project in Ocean City to help with the resort’s critical seasonal employee shortage and affordable housing needs.

Holtz President Dan Bullock pinpointed five potential locations, each of which comes with challenges. A favored early option iwas a portion of the Park-and-Ride in West Ocean City. Another option discussed was the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) model block downtown. The OCDC for years has been piece-meal acquiring property in the downtown area for its model block initiative, but it is uncertain if the quasi-private-public corporation is interested in utilizing the acquired property for workforce housing.

Another potential site identified was a property on Dorchester Street, but it has been determined the parcel is too small to accomplish Holtz Builders’ plans for a dormitory-style seasonal housing project. Another potential site identified was a portion of the old 94th Street mall property, but it has been learned the property owner is not interested.

Finally, yet another site identified by Holtz was the town-owned municipal parking lot at 100th Street. Holtz and the city would need to accomplish a property swap with Delmarva Power in order to make the parcel a reality for the seasonal workforce housing.

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Though it was favored by the council last month during preliminary talks, City Manager Doug Miller, who provided an update on the proposed locations on Tuesday, said the proposed Park-and-Ride site came with many challenges, although it hasn’t been entirely ruled out.

“We’re looking at a critical need for workforce housing sooner rather than later,” he said. “At our last meeting, the top choice was the Park-and-Ride. There are significant zoning issues and environmental issues to overcome. That’s not to say it can’t be done.”

Miller then outlined the various challenges associated with the other proposed locations.

“The 94th Street property owner has no interest,” he said Tuesday. “The OCDC meets tomorrow, so the model block property is still in play. The Park-and-Ride would be greatly delayed. That leaves 100th Street, which we partially own, but that would require a property swap to create a contiguous town-owned property to accommodate the project.”

Whatever site or sites are ultimately chosen, Bullock said Holtz is ready to invest $20 million into seasonal workforce housing in Ocean City. Holtz would build and operate the workforce housing facilities. The town’s role would be partnering in property acquisition or assisting with grants or tax abatements and such.

Council Secretary Tony DeLuca made a motion to direct staff to continue to work with Holtz Builders on a suitable location, now likely either the 100th Street site or the OCDC’s downtown model block. The motion also included meeting with the OCDC leadership on a potential solution to the model block site. The motion passed 6-0 with Councilman Lloyd Martin out of the room.

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.