Home Latest Stories State Review Drags on for Major Housing Project in Ocean City

State Review Drags on for Major Housing Project in Ocean City

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An architectural rendering depicts the duplex-style design of the 60-unit housing development.

By DONALD WITTKOWSKI

Ocean City’s public housing agency continues to wait for the state to complete a lengthy review of the bidding documents for a 60-unit affordable housing development before construction can start on the project.

The state Comptroller’s Office, which scrutinizes major public projects in New Jersey, began reviewing the approximately 1,000-page bid package for the Ocean City Housing Authority’s Pecks Beach Village development last October.

Officials at the housing authority had hoped that the Comptroller’s Office would finally wrap up its review in April, but it now seems that May is a more likely scenario for the work to be finished.

“That’s not a guarantee, but we are certainly working in that direction,” Michael Watson, the housing authority’s solicitor, said of the May timeframe.

In remarks during the authority’s monthly board meeting Tuesday, Watson characterized the tenor of the discussions with the Comptroller’s Office as “significant and positive progress.”

Watson said most of the review consists of legal language that must be included in the bid package. In this case, it is more complicated than the bid packages for most public projects because it involves a combination of both state and federal laws, he explained.

Michael Watson, solicitor for the Ocean City Housing Authority, speaks during Tuesday’s board meeting.

The authority has been waiting for the Comptroller’s Office to finish the review so that it can begin advertising for construction bids for the estimated $22 million to $23 million development proposed in the north end of Ocean City on Fourth Street.

Once the bids are in, the authority can go through the process of selecting the contractor that would build the project. In most cases, public agencies select the contractor that submits the lowest bid.

Bob Barr, chairman of the housing authority’s board, said he has no concerns that the state’s review will cause significant delays with the project.

“We’re on the one-inch line of the goal line,” Barr said, using a football metaphor to describe how close he believes the authority is toward starting the project.

Barr and Jacqueline Jones, the authority’s executive director, both expressed confidence that construction will begin sometime this year.

“We’re close to getting it approved,” Jones said of the Comptroller’s Office signing off on the bid documents.

Jones noted that the authority faces a requirement to start construction by this year as part of the agreement for about $5 million in funding it will receive from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, or HMFA

Financing for the project will consist of a mix of grants and loans from the HMFA, funding from the city of Ocean City and tax credits given to private investors.

The 60 units of new affordable housing will replace the 1960s-era Pecks Beach Village complex on the north side of Fourth Street.

The project will help Ocean City meet its state-mandated obligation to provide its “fair share” of affordable housing under a court settlement in 2018.

Altogether, construction of the 60-unit affordable housing project will take about 18 months to 24 months to complete, the authority has said.

The design of the project will feature 15 duplex-style buildings containing four units each for the families living there, housing authority officials said during a presentation made before the Ocean City Planning Board in April 2023.

Representatives of the housing authority repeatedly stressed during their presentation to the planning board that the development reflects the agency’s philosophy to build new projects that are compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.

The project will replace the existing Pecks Beach Village housing complex dating to the 1960s.

The Pecks Beach Village complex formerly consisted of two parts – a 20-unit enclave of cottage-style housing for senior citizens and 40 units of affordable housing for families along Fourth Street.

The 20 units of senior housing on the north side of Fourth Street were torn down in 2022 to create room for the proposed project consisting of 60 units of affordable housing for families. The seniors who had lived at Pecks Beach Village moved into a new affordable housing complex in downtown Ocean City at Sixth Street and West Avenue.

Meanwhile, the existing 40 units of family housing at Pecks Beach Village on the south side of Fourth Street will remain until the housing authority builds the new 60 units. The 40-unit complex will likely be demolished in stages as residents move into the new development.

Vacant land on the north side of Fourth Street is the site for the proposed housing complex.

 

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