Home Latest Stories Housing Project Approved for Site Coveted by Ocean City

Housing Project Approved for Site Coveted by Ocean City

Attorney Avery Teitler, left, and engineer Jason Sciullo, representatives of Klause Enterprises, stand in front of an architectural rendering of the proposed housing project.


The Ocean City Planning Board granted final approval Wednesday night for a housing project proposed on a large tract of land that the city has been trying to acquire for the past year to preserve as open space.

Brothers Harry and Jerry Klause of Klause Enterprises plan to develop 21 single-family homes on nearly an entire block bordered by Simpson and Haven avenues between 16th and 17th streets. The property was formerly occupied by a now-closed Chevrolet dealership.

The Klauses sat quietly in the back row of the room at City Hall while their representatives discussed the project with the planning board members. They declined to comment afterward, leaving their attorney, Avery Teitler, to speak for them about their plans.

Teitler said the Klauses are serious about developing the project, but did not rule out the possibility of negotiating a deal for the property’s sale to the city.

“We have not heard anything from the city,” Teitler said in an interview after the meeting.

Mayor Jay Gillian and City Council attempted to acquire the land from Klause Enterprises last year for $9 million, but the deal fell through when the community group Fairness In Taxes circulated a petition drive for a voter referendum to block the purchase.

City officials want to preserve the land as public space to protect it from densely packed housing construction that would add to the town’s overdevelopment.

The former Perry-Egan Chevrolet dealership showroom is surrounded by property that the city wants to acquire for open space, but Klause Enterprises is looking to redevelop into new housing.

Renewing its efforts to acquire the site, City Council gave final approval in August to a new ordinance that authorizes the city to either buy or condemn the property. City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson explained then that the ordinance is the first step in starting negotiations with Klause Enterprises in hopes of reaching a deal.

McCrosson noted during the Council meeting that the city is conducting new property appraisals in advance of talks with the Klauses. She also said the mayor intends to hold a town meeting to gather public feedback on what should be done with the land if it comes under the city’s ownership.

In the meantime, the property remains surrounded by a chain-link fence. A rendering of the project has been attached to the fence, giving the public a sneak preview of what is to come if the Klauses build the homes.

The homes would replace a now-empty building and a sprawling blacktop and concrete lot that served as the location for the former Perry-Egan Chevrolet dealership that once occupied the site.

Teitler said there is currently no construction schedule. Although 21 homes were approved by the planning board, one lot is a mere half-foot short for a 22nd house. Klause Enterprises intends to return before the board to seek approval to build the 22nd home, company representatives indicated.

The 21-home project is “fully conforming” with local zoning and planning laws, Teitler said.

Noting that the project does not require any zoning variances, the planning board approved the development by a vote of 6-0.

Brothers Jerry, left, and Harry Klause, decline comment on their project after the planning board meeting.

The lot sizes for each home are larger than the city’s minimum standards by about 15 feet, allowing each house to have more space instead of cramming them closer together. In addition, the heights for each two-story home would be lower than what is allowed, Klause representatives said during their presentation.

Christopher Halliday, the architect for Klause Enterprises, said each house would feature a unique design to create its “own personal style.”

“(It) gives the neighborhood more visual interest and character,” Halliday said.

Planning Board Chairman John Loeper said he likes that homebuyers will have the option of adding a back deck to their house to make them even more aesthetically appealing.

A handful of residents attended the meeting, but only one of them addressed the board. Jesse Gorman, who lives at 1701 Haven Avenue, directly across the street from the Klause Enterprises property, said he believes it would be better to preserve the land as open space or use it as public parking for the Ocean City Free Public Library next door.

Gorman questioned the planning board members about whether they would support keeping the land as open space, but Loeper told him that Klause Enterprises has the right to develop homes on their property.

“It’s not within our purview,” Loeper replied when Gorman asked whether the planning board would rather see the land preserved.

A banner showing what the new houses will look like is attached to a chain-link fence surrounding the property.