By Maddy Vitale
Ocean City’s deal to purchase nearly a block of property for $9 million to be used for open space is off the table, at least for now.
City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday night to repeal the funding for property bordered by Simpson and Haven avenues, between 16th and 17th streets, after a local taxpayer group obtained a petition to block the deal.
Council President Peter Madden said after the meeting, “Unfortunately, we bonded the money and had everything prepared to move forward and Fairness in Taxes opposed the ordinance. They got the needed signatures.”
But Madden stressed that the governing body is still focused on preserving open space.
“We are looking at every opportunity we can to acquire as much open space as we can. We will deal with the roadblocks as they come up,” Madden said. “This certainly isn’t going to deter us from continuing to pursue open space.”
Members of the public did not speak during the public hearing on the ordinance.
However, at the end of the meeting, Dave Hayes, president of Fairness in Taxes, told Council that some people in the community had issues with the deal.
“When we talked to people, they were concerned that they hadn’t had input,” Hayes said.
FIT has maintained it is not opposed to the city buying the land for public use but believes the $9 million price tag is between $2.5 million and $3 million too high.
The property, which includes a closed Chevrolet dealership, is owned by Jerry and Harry Klause.
The city had entered into a tentative agreement with the Klauses to buy the land for $9 million, resulting in the FIT petition to force a public referendum on the deal. When the deal was halted, Council introduced an ordinance to repeal funding for the purchase.
Mayor Jay Gillian and City Council have said that the property could be used for a new police station or could be preserved as open space. Gillian also said that he was concerned a housing developer would come in and build on the tract.