By Donald Wittkowski
One of three abandoned gas stations that mar the appearance of Ocean City’s main entryway would be demolished and turned into green space under a proposed deal scheduled for a vote Thursday by City Council.
Council is expected to introduce a $475,000 bond ordinance to buy the blighted former BP station on Ninth Street from owner SAE New Jersey Realty Co. LLC of Pennsauken.
Chief Finance Officer Frank Donato said the deal calls for SAE to demolish the old building and remove the underground gasoline storage tanks before the city takes ownership. The site is expected to be cleaned up by Memorial Day, with the city officially closing on the transaction in June after the $475,000 in bonds go to market to finance the purchase, he noted.
“We would take title to a vacant, dirt lot,” Donato said.
The city plans to landscape the property to create green space. In addition, the land would provide parking for the surrounding residential neighborhood on Revere Place, as well as for people who bike, walk and jog on the Ninth Street Bridge, Donato said.
The BP property, along with two rusting former Exxon and Getty gas stations, form a ghostly trio of abandoned buildings that spoil the Ninth Street gateway.
The Exxon site at Ninth Street and Bay Avenue is one of the first things visitors see as they enter town. The BP and adjacent Getty station on the opposite side of Ninth Street confront people as they leave the island. City officials have long been concerned about the impression the run-down properties have made on tourists.
“First and foremost, they are an eyesore along the main artery in and out of town,” Donato said. “These properties have been blighted areas for a few years now.”
Keller Williams, an Ocean City real estate firm, announced earlier in the year that it is buying the old Exxon station and will build a new multimillion-dollar office there. Keller Williams said this month it is waiting for the property’s current owner to remove the old underground gasoline storage tanks before closing on the deal and starting construction on the office.
Meanwhile, the city is negotiating to buy the old Getty property from owner Trinetra Realty Holdings New Jersey Delaware LLC of Princeton, Donato said. The Getty site would also be demolished and converted into green space and a parking area if the city acquires it.
Donato also disclosed that the owner of the Bud’s Marina site next to the BP and Getty stations has expressed interest in selling, which would give the city an even larger footprint for open space along the Ninth Street corridor.
If the bond ordinance to buy the BP property is introduced at Council’s meeting 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, a public hearing and final vote would follow on May 12.
Also Thursday, Council is expected to give final approval for the city’s proposed $75.1 million municipal budget for 2016. The spending plan includes about a penny increase in the local property tax rate. For the owners of a typical Ocean City home assessed at $500,000, that would mean they would pay an extra $48 annually in local taxes, Donato said.