OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR GILLIAN ADMINISTRATION

Mayor Gillian has said publicly many times that the reason FIT challenges some of his proposals is because we don’t like him personally.  The truth is not as simple as that.  There are members of the FIT board who believe Mayor Gillian’s motives are to do what he sincerely believes is in the best interest of Ocean City.  The City acts on many things.  Sometimes we agree with the Administration and have said so.  When we oppose him as a group it is because we think there are better options that should be considered.  True, there are some people in every group, including FIT, who make all things personal.  That always results in a breakdown in communication.

Fairness In Taxes has made no objection to the City meeting its affordable housing obligation.  When anyone (Council, Mayor, or public bystander) tries to caricaturize us as uncaring, they only show how much they’re not listening.  If you show us our factual errors, we’ll acknowledge, reconsider and even revise.  But changing the discussion to the personal is a distraction that some will see through and others will not.  And it doesn’t advance the discussion.

We applaud the City for deciding to offset the rehabilitation cost of affordable housing by using a Community Development Block Grant as FIT recommended.  But some questions remain unanswered.

For example, why can’t the City issue bonds for the work and use the Affordable Housing Trust fund to pay off the bonds as has been recommended by more than one FIT member?

At the Nov. 28th Council meeting City Solicitor, Dottie McCrosson, said that the cost would be between 11 – 12 million dollars.  At the January 12th workshop it was 15 million dollars which the Mayor said would be reduced by a 4.4 million dollar grant the Housing Authority received.  Is this the same grant that the Housing Authority received back in March 2017?  Were not those grants already calculated into the earlier cost estimates, or are they being counted twice?  We all make mistakes so I’m not accusing.  I’m just asking.

We understand not wanting a developer from out of town but is it justifiable to spread millions of taxpayer dollars to developers just because they’re local rather than pay a third-party developer like Pennrose who could do the job at $0 cost to taxpayers?  Your answer to this was yes, based on the justification that it gives “control” to the City.  OK, but control of what?  Occupants, land, design, money, all of the above? Is it not true that Pennrose is a company that’s been in existence for over 40 years and specializes in converting older buildings into sustainable, high quality, mixed income, affordable housing units?  Could not hiring local employees where appropriate be part of the negotiable conditions?

 Meanwhile, if the Housing Authority had accepted the Pennrose proposal in 2015 wouldn’t all those residents be right now sitting in their brand-new apartments high above flood level?

In response to the question: “Will the Ocean City Housing Authority pay Ocean City back?”  The City’s response was, “Ocean City will have a mortgage on each Housing Authority unit/building to which Ocean City contributes taxpayer funds.”  OK, but how is that secure?  Could the City foreclose on the property and resell it at market price while it is bound to an affordable housing obligation?

I’m not interested in hearing from anyone in the Administration or in FIT about what anyone’s suspected motives, intentions or “agendas” are.  But I would respectfully appreciate a public response to the questions above.

Jim Tweed

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