By Maddy Vitale
The Ocean City Planning Board approved a $4.2 million affordable housing project Wednesday night for senior citizens that will be developed by the city’s Housing Authority.
The board found that the project is consistent with the city’s master plan and gave its approval for a 20-unit two-story building on Sixth Street and West Avenue. The building will be constructed on what is now a parking lot adjacent to the authority’s Bay View Manor housing complex. It will be funded by a Hurricane Sandy recovery grant.
The construction is expected to start in 2019 and be completed by 2020, but first, the Housing Authority needs to secure regulatory approvals and permits from the Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Once construction is completed, the former site will be demolished.
The Sixth Street complex would be named in honor of the late housing authority commissioner Edmond C. Speitel Sr., and would replace the authority’s flood prone Pecks Beach Village housing site on Fourth Street.
Bob Barr, a city councilman who also serves as chairman of the authority, remarked after the planning board gave its approval, that many hours, many phone calls, and a lot of hard work, went into the making of the project.
“We are excited to be through this stage and we thank the planning board members for their support,” Barr said.
The new home for 20 senior citizens has significant meaning for him.
“I have known many of the people who live there my entire life. The building is not only new and modern, but it will take the flood equation out of it,” Barr said. “Yes, it is beautiful and has a good layout, but I have lost sleep at night when we have storms, worrying about the residents when it floods.”
During a brief hearing, the housing authority presented two experts.
Charles Gabage, solicitor for the housing authority, said just prior to introducing the witnesses, that the city planner has already given the opinion that the project is in line with the master plan, which should be taken into consideration by the board members.
The master plan calls for a multi-family residential zoning, where the new housing units would be built, which officials agreed is consistent with the allowable use.
“I would hope the board gives heavy weight to the opinion of the planner,” Gabage said, adding that it is a great project.
But prior to voting, the board heard brief testimony.
Jason Sciullo, an engineer hired by the housing authority, explained that there will be 28 parking spaces for the 20 units. One of the concerns of the city was that there would not be adequate parking.
“We know who is going to move into this building, so we took into consideration the parking and who would be using it. We feel it is adequate parking,” Sciullo said.
Randall Scheule, planner for the board, said another concern was angled one way and the board would like it angled the other way, parking toward the alley at the intersection of Sixth Street and West Avenue.
Sciullo said any issue with angled parking could be rectified.
There were also some right-of-way concerns, but they are being addressed, officials said.
The issue of the budget came up. Gabage told the board that the housing authority must stick to the budget and cannot spend more funds.
“We are doing it within the budget we can use,” he said.
When it came time for a vote, board members gave their nod of approval.
Planning Board member Michael Allegretto called it a key project before casting his vote in the affirmative.
Like Barr, officials from the housing authority said they hope the plan gets underway to provide a comfortable, safe environment for its residents that includes an appealing design.
James Haley, of Haley Donovan out of Haddonfield, said all of the units will be (ADA) Americans With Disabilities Act, adaptable. The units feature an environmentally friendly design and comes with Energy Star appliances.
Haley said the units are roomy with separate living and dining areas and a kitchen.
Jacqueline Jones, executive director of the housing authority said she is very eager to start construction so that the residents will not have to worry about flooding.
Jones added, “We are really excited about providing real, quality homes to the residents.”