By TIM KELLY
As Ocean City knockdowns go, this is a big one.
The former Perry-Egan Chevrolet, AKA Ocean City Chevrolet, began its fade into history this week to make way for development of a yet-to-be determined number of new homes, or possibly for open space.
Chain link fencing surrounded the perimeter of the former dealership on Wednesday afternoon as the old buildings which formerly contained a showroom full of new cars, offices, and the service department, met its date with the heavy demolition equipment.
A white sign with red lettering stating “Coming soon 20+ single family homes buildable lots available,” was attached to the fencing.
The majority of the buildings and the surrounding asphalt / concrete lots are owned by Klause Enterprises, LLC, of Ocean City. Earlier this year, plans were announced for the homes to be built after negotiations for the property to be purchased by the city ended.
The former dealership sits on a 85,688-square foot area, almost two acres, consisting of five separate lots between Simpson and Haven Avenues, between 16th Street and 17th Street, adjacent to the Ocean City Community Center. The parcel represents the largest buildable area in Ocean City in decades.
One of the company’s principals, Harry Klause, was reached by phone Wednesday afternoon and referred a request for comment to attorney Avery Teitler. A message left for Teitler was not returned in time for this edition of OCNJDaily.
Last month the Ocean City Planning Board granted final approval for development of the tract for 21 homes. However, the City still hopes to acquire the site for open space. At the Planning Board meeting, Teitler told OCNJDaily that Klause Enterprises would follow through on its development plans, but that it was still open to the possibility of selling the land to the city.
A previous attempt to purchase the property by the city for $9 million took place in 2018. However, the group Fairness in Taxes opposed it and successfully circulated a petition drive for a voter referendum to block the sale, from which the city then withdrew.
Last month, Teitler said Klause Enterprises has not heard from the City concerning reopening negotiations on a sale.
Regardless of the ultimate fate of the property, be it new homes or open space, the old auto dealership buildings had to go and that process has officially begun.
On Wednesday, a large chunk of the buildings were already down, with what appeared to be more than half of the complex still standing for the time being.