If city buys former car dealership, residents get a say in its new use

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2019 12:24 pm

OCEAN CITY – Council approved an ordinance Aug. 22 authorizing the city to acquire the former Ocean City Chevrolet lot by purchase or condemnation.

This is the second time the council voted to acquire the former car lot next to the Ocean City Community Center on Simpson Avenue. 

Last year the city bonded $9 million to purchase the dealership property which occupied a city block on Simpson Avenue from the owners, Klause Enterprises LLC. 

The city wanted the 86,688 square foot tract, or 1.9 acres, preserved from residential development. 

Fairness in Taxes (FIT), a taxpayer watchdog group, said the $9 million sales price was too high and started a petition drive last October to halt the sale and put the property sale to a public vote. The petition drive proved ultimately successful, and after the signatures were verified, the city repealed the property’s sale, ending the deal with Klause Enterprises. 

Klause Enterprises – brothers Harry and Jerry Klause – then proposed a 21-unit housing development for the car dealership. 

Seven homes are planned along Haven Avenue, while 14 homes are to be built along Simpson Avenue, according to the plans. Each lot will have landscaping, a driveway, and access to a rear alley bisecting the lot. 

In May, Mayor Jay Gillian announced that the city is getting new appraisals for the property.

The property comprises an entire city block consisting of: 1600 Haven Ave. block 1606, lot 3; 1601-43 Simpson Ave.; 1620 Haven Ave.; 1628-38 Haven Ave.; 1640 Haven Ave.; and 1644-46 haven Ave. lot 1606, lots 2, 3.01, 4, 5 and 6. 

Gillian and city council suggested several possible uses for the property, including recreation, parking, or a new public safety building. 

FIT President David Hayes told council at the Aug. 8 meeting that while his organization favors the city purchasing the property, a plan for the land’s use must be made public. 

“Without a plan it’s just hand-waving. If it’s going to be open space, say it’s open space. If it’s going to be a public service building, that’s great…. If you can’t decide let’s have a workshop and get people’s input,” Hayes said. 

Gillian proposed holding a town hall meeting to discuss uses if the city acquires the entire block. 

In his Aug. 23 letter to the community, Gillian addressed the ordinance. 

“This is only the beginning of a process that I hope will result in our acquisition of this land for public use,” Gillian said. “If we are able to purchase this land, I will hold a town hall meeting to discuss options for how best to use it. But the immediate goal is to protect the city block being developed with housing before it’s too late. We are not currently considering this location as a potential site for a new public safety building. It will be reserved for open space, recreation or some other public use.”

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