Council Backs New Bayfront Marina and Restaurant With $2.6 Million

Council Backs New Bayfront Marina and Restaurant With $2.6 Million

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An abandoned marina property on the 900 block of Palen Avenue in Ocean City, NJ, would be redeveloped with the help of city financing under a proposal being considered by City Council.

City Council voted unanimously Thursday to support the reconstruction of a marina and restaurant on the bay at 10th Street by providing $2.6 million in financing to a private developer.

The former Dan’s Dockside Marina on the 900 block of Palen Avenue has been abandoned since 2008.

Twelve members of the public, many neighbors of the site for the proposed marina, spoke of their faith in Thomas and Beverley Gill to convert the blighted property into an asset for the entire community.

They and council members said they want to recapture a small piece of the era when the block was home to thriving restaurants like Hogate’s and Chris’, and a fleet of fishing, charter and excursion boats.

Design for a proposed marina on the bay in Ocean City near 10th Street.
Design for a proposed marina on the bay in Ocean City near 10th Street.

Council voted 7-0 to approve two separate measures: 1) a resolution to approve a redevelopment agreement with Bayfront Preservation Foundation LLC (see PDF below for the full text of the agreement), and 2) a bond ordinance authorizing the borrowing of $2.6 million to pay for purchase and development of the property, and environmental remediation (second reading scheduled for June 26).

The Gills (Bayfront Preservation) — neighbors of the property and owners of a successful fishing tackle supply business — are the contract purchaser for the bank-owned property. They hope to build a marina that could include at least 18 boat slips; a marine fueling station; a building with a restaurant/cafe on the first floor, retail space on the second floor and a residence on the third; and 44 parking spaces in a surface lot.

The property includes 200 feet of bayfront and four upland lots and is “undeniably a blighted area,” Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said.

As recently as October 2010, the property was listed for sale at $2.9 million, but there have been no buyers.

The Gills, who owned the same property from 1997 to 2000, were denied financing by three lenders and the federal Small Business Administration when they tried to repurchase the property, according to McCrosson.

The lots have two 12,000-gallon and one 8,000-gallon fuel tanks that will need remediation, she said. Two independent soil-boring tests led an environmental firm to estimate a $200,000 cleanup cost.

The remediation, replacement of bulkheads, removing the tanks and constructing a parking lot will be financed by $1.2 million from the city. The other $1.4 million will go toward purchase of the property (required within 180 days).

The Gills will be responsible for financing any remediation costs in excess of the $200,000 and for the cost of constructing the marina/restaurant building.

The Gills are required to repay all taxpayer funds, including interest, within seven years.

Thomas and Beverley Gill are listed as “guarantors” in the agreement, and they would be personally responsible for repaying the debt, if the redevelopment project fails, according the agreement. They must prove their net worth is 1.5 times greater than the debt.

The city would place a lien on the property to recoup funds if Bayfront Preservation defaults.

The agreement includes no tax abatement or payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) clause.

McCrosson said similar agreements are commonly used mechanisms for cities addressing blighted areas.

“It’s the ideal situation for a public-private partnership,” Councilman Scott Ping said.

Carla Migliaccio, a Palen Avenue resident, described squatters taking up residence in the abandoned restaurant, collapsed bulkheads and increased flooding.

“It’s a sad welcoming sight for everyone in the city,” she said.

Other neighbors called the fenced-in property “the POW compound, “the Third World country zone” and “that dump.”

Even Fairness in Taxes officers Jim Tweed and Michael Hinchman spoke in favor of the partnership.

“The benefits are unquestioned,” Hinchman said.

But he questioned what he considers the city’s lack of due diligence on the details of the agreement, including the absence of financial projections in the document.

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