By Donald Wittkowski
Ocean City is close to acquiring the second of three former gas station sites that it plans to transform into landscaped parks to make the main entryway into town more inviting for visitors.
Meanwhile, Mayor Jay Gillian’s administration is expected to give City Council an update at its meeting Thursday night on plans to acquire the third former gas station property, which has been the focus of a court fight.
In 2016, the city paid $475,000 to buy the first gas station property, a former BP, that occupies a prominent spot on the Ninth Street corridor, the primary artery in and out of town.
Now, after lengthy negotiations, the city is in the midst of buying the second site, once a Getty station, next door to the former BP property.
As a final part of the proposed deal, the city and its environmental consultant are discussing remediation of the Getty property stemming from its former use as a gas station, city spokesman Doug Bergen said.
“We’re getting great feedback from the city’s environmental consultant about remediation at the former Getty site. That was the last contingency, and final acquisition should be imminent,” Bergen said in an email Wednesday after consulting with Ocean City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson.
Bergen added that he could not say exactly when the deal will close because the final paperwork still needs to be signed for the property, located at the corner of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue.
The purchase price has not yet been disclosed, although the city made a $650,000 offer for the property last year to its private owner, Trinetra Realty Holdings.
The city had originally hoped to convert the old BP and Getty sites into green space for the start of the 2017 summer tourism season. Those plans were delayed when it took longer than expected to acquire the Getty property.
The hulking remains of the old BP gas station were demolished in 2016. The blighted old Getty station was also torn down in preparation for the city to buy the land.
According to plans, the Getty property will be combined with the old BP site to create a swath of green space stretching from the corner of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue to the base of the Route 52 Causeway bridge.
A decorative brick wall and metal fence have already been built at the old BP site as part of its makeover into a quaint park.
The landscaped lots would be elevated by 2 to 3 feet to help protect them from flooding. The project will also include new parking for the adjacent Revere Place neighborhood.
In addition, the decorative brick retaining wall that has been placed in front of the former BP site is part of broader plans to elevate the Ninth Street corridor to protect it from flooding during coastal storms.
Meanwhile, the final part of the city’s beautification plan for the Ninth Street gateway involves a former Exxon gas station site now owned by the Keller Williams real estate company.
The Keller Williams property is located at the corner of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue, on the opposite side of the street of the old BP and Getty sites. Keller Williams, which demolished the old Exxon station, has wanted to build an office complex on the land.
The city, however, is looking to seize the Keller Williams property through its power of eminent domain and build a park there.
The city and Keller Williams owner Paul Chiolo have been locked in a legal battle over control of the former Exxon land. City Council has approved a $650,000 funding package to buy the site. The two sides failed to reach an agreement for a buyout, so the dispute landed in the courts.
With talks at an impasse, the city filed for a “declaration of taking” to get court permission to condemn the land.
In January, Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez gave the city and Chiolo more time to try to reach an agreement.
City Council is expected to get a briefing Thursday on efforts to acquire the property.