By Donald Wittkowski
Ocean City’s public housing agency will not have to obtain three key state regulatory permits for a proposed $4.2 million housing project, saving it time and money as it pushes ahead to start construction by the end of the year.
The Ocean City Housing Authority reported during its monthly board meeting Tuesday that it has learned it will not need the permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, to build the project.
The authority is planning to build a new affordable-housing complex for senior citizens that will replace its Pecks Beach Village housing site on Fourth Street. The 20-unit project is expected to be ready by the end of 2019.
“We’re hoping to break ground by Christmas,” City Councilman Bob Barr, who also serves as the housing authority’s chairman, said in an interview.
The two-story building will be constructed on what is now a parking lot adjacent to the authority’s Bay View Manor housing complex at Sixth Street and West Avenue. It will be funded by a Hurricane Sandy recovery grant.
Scott Halliday, a housing authority board member who chairs the redevelopment committee, said the DEP will not require the agency to obtain three regulatory permits that are usually required for construction projects built near the ocean or bays.
“This does help us quite a bit,” Halliday said in an interview after the board meeting.
He noted that if the DEP had required all of the permits, it would have added months to the project, as well as more costs.
One of them, a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act, or CAFRA, permit, would have likely taken at least 90 days to complete, Halliday explained.
The other two permits are for waterfront development and coastal wetlands. Halliday said the DEP determined that the housing authority’s project – which would be blocks from both the ocean and the bay – wasn’t located in a waterfront area where the permits are needed.
The housing authority uses federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide affordable housing for low-income senior citizens, families and the disabled at its Pecks Beach Village and Bay View Manor facilities.
The agency announced in November that it will name the new housing project in honor of Edmond C. Speitel Sr., a former authority board member who died on Sept. 11 at the age of 61. Speitel, who had served as chairman of the authority’s finance and redevelopment committees, helped to guide the project from the conceptual phase.
In other business Tuesday, the authority said it is making an aggressive push to sign up more Ocean City residents to a waiting list for vacancies at the Bay View Manor and Pecks Beach Village sites.
Ocean City residents and people who have full-time jobs in the city are given preference for vacancies when they open up. However, the authority has had a difficult time finding enough local residents for the waiting list.
“Unfortunately, we’re not getting the target market – Ocean City residents,” said Sandy Velez, the authority’s assistant asset manager.
Velez told the board members that there are plans to “canvass” Ocean City on Friday with fliers in hopes of getting more local residents to sign up. The authority has also publicized the waiting list in newspaper notices, she said.
The authority began accepting applications for the waiting list on Feb. 1 and will continue the process through April 30.
Currently, there are only two vacancies. However, Velez said the waiting list creates a pipeline for qualified applicants, allowing them to quickly move in when vacancies open up throughout the year.