Mayor Opposes Plan For Luxury Hotel on Ocean City Boardwalk

Mayor Opposes Plan For Luxury Hotel on Ocean City Boardwalk

A conceptual rendering depicts the proposed Icona Resorts hotel on the Ocean City Boardwalk. (Courtesy of DAS Architects Inc.)


Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian sent a message loud and clear Tuesday that he would not support a project to build an upscale hotel on the Boardwalk.

Eustace Mita, chairman and chief executive officer of Icona Resorts, went before City Council on Feb. 23 with his plan to build a 325-room hotel that would cost about $150 million to develop.

“After consideration of the ICONA presentation to City Council at their February 23 public meeting, I spoke to Eustace Mita to express my concerns,” Gillian said in a statement. “I told Mr. Mita that while I understand the need for hotel rooms in Ocean City, I cannot and will not support his proposal to the council.”

For the hotel site, the city would have had to sell Mita municipally owned land, overlooking the Boardwalk between Fifth and Sixth streets, that currently serves as a large public parking lot.

Gillian and Mita are partners in Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, the Boardwalk amusement park, which is separate from Mita’s hotel proposal.

City Council would have to agree to a zoning change to create a new hotel district encompassing that section of the Boardwalk. Currently, the city’s zoning laws prohibit hotel development on the Boardwalk.

Eustace Mita, owner of Icona Resorts, gives a presentation on his proposed Ocean City hotel to City Council on Feb. 23.

City Council President Pete Madden said in an interview Tuesday that Ocean City officials heard from the community and they listened.

“Our job is to listen to everybody in the community and really be open-minded to ideas, but then go back to the community and listen to the input about the ideas,” Madden said. “In this case, the community spoke in opposition.”

Madden noted that while there are “many members of the community who believe we need a hotel, this location was not the ideal location, as expressed by the community.”

He added that in the large majority of matters that concern the public, there is often a balanced argument for and against something.

In this case, the community members who reached out to the city were overwhelmingly opposed to the hotel project, he pointed out.

“This was very clear from the get-go. That location was not what the community was going to support,” Madden said. “We don’t want to deter ideas. We foster ideas and growth. We appreciate Eustace Mita coming before us with an idea and we look forward to the next idea he or someone else may have.”

During the presentation Feb. 23, Mita pointed to his highly acclaimed Icona Resorts properties in Avalon, Diamond Beach and Cape May at the Cape May County shore as examples of what Ocean City may expect with a new luxury hotel he would develop.

He spoke of the project’s potential to boost the Ocean City tourism market at a time when the number of hotel and motel rooms has plummeted, by his count, from 3,000 to about 750.

Neither Mita, nor his attorney, Stephen Nehmad, could be immediately reached for comment Tuesday in response to Gillian’s statement.

In January, Mita made an unsuccessful attempt to buy the former Crown Bank building on Asbury Avenue out of bankruptcy. Mita had planned to turn the Crown Bank building into a boutique hotel, but he was outbid for the property by Ocean City real estate investors and brothers Raj and Yogi Khatiwala.

The hotel’s proposed site is currently a large parking lot next to the Boardwalk between Fifth and Sixth streets.