first_imgThe shuttered Getty site at the corner of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue is one of three former gas stations that could possibly be condemned by Ocean City. By Donald WittkowskiOcean City would give itself the option of condemning three blighted former gasoline stations that mar the main gateway into town under an ordinance scheduled for a final vote by City Council on Thursday.The measure targets the old Exxon, Getty and BP sites at the foot of the Ninth Street corridor, as well as an adjacent waterfront business known as Bud’s Outboard Marine Inc.Long frustrated by the negative impression the shuttered gas stations have made on visitors as they enter town, city officials want to transform the sites into landscaped open space to spruce up the appearance of the corridor. The possible acquisition of Bud’s Outboard Marine would create an even bigger expanse of open space.The condemnation ordinance was introduced by Council on Aug. 11. It is up for a public hearing and final vote at Council’s 7 p.m. meeting Thursday. The measure would give the city the option of condemning the sites or buying them from the current owners through a negotiated deal.The old Exxon station, on the opposite side of Ninth Street from the Getty site, is another possible target for condemnation.The condemnation process provides additional legal safeguards to protect the city from liability claims if contamination is discovered at the sites after the town takes control, Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson explained. The onus for cleaning up the contamination would fall on the previous owners, not the city, McCrosson said.Already, the city has agreed to buy the former BP site for $475,000. The old BP building and fuel pumps were demolished in June to create empty land.In the BP deal, the owner was required to remove the old underground gasoline storage tanks before the city took possession of the property. The owner was also required to test for contamination.Although Council has agreed to buy the BP site, that property is included in the condemnation ordinance to give the city an extra layer of security from potential liability lawsuits if contamination is found in the future, McCrosson said.The Exxon site, meanwhile, is already known to be contaminated with petroleum-related chemicals in the groundwater and soil. The contamination, which is suspected to stem from the station’s former operation, has been monitored for the last 27 years.An environmental consulting firm overseeing the site told surrounding property owners in a letter last month that the contamination poses no public danger and should dissipate by itself.Despite Council’s scheduled vote on the condemnation ordinance Thursday, the city appears far from actually acquiring the Exxon site, as well as the Getty and Bud’s Outboard Marine properties.No serious negotiations have begun with the property owners, McCrosson said. In addition, property appraisals still have to be done. In another step, Council would have to approve the funding to acquire the sites.Further complicating the situation are possible redevelopment plans for the Exxon site. The Ocean City real estate firm Keller Williams has agreed to buy the property for an undisclosed price, but is waiting for the current owner to clean it up before it completes the deal.Keller Williams has announced plans to build a multimillion-dollar real estate office on the site. In a brief telephone interview Wednesday, Keller Williams sales agent Eric Booth said he was unsure how the condemnation ordinance could affect the company’s plans.The old BP station adjacent to the Getty site has already been demolished. The city agreed to buy the BP property for $475,000 and plans to transform it into landscaped open space.Mayor Jay Gillian said he wants to take a wait-and-see approach toward the Keller Williams project before making a final decision whether to condemn the property and place it under the city’s control. His main priority is to have the site cleaned up, he stressed.“From day one, it’s been a blight and an eyesore,” Gillian said in an interview after the Aug. 11 Council meeting.In other business Thursday, Council is expected to approve a bond ordinance that is part of the funding plan for the construction of a new fire station on 29th Street.The bond ordinance includes redirecting $450,000 that was originally intended to pay for new parking lots to instead help finance the new fire station.At its Aug. 11 meeting, Council awarded a $2.1 million construction contract for the fire station. The current firehouse, built in the 1950s, has been badly damaged by coastal storms in recent years and will be demolished in the fall.Also Thursday, Council is expected to vote to vacate a portion of 10th Street to help with the redevelopment of the former Dan’s Dock property into a new bayside marina called the 10th Street Wharf.Under the plan, a 17-foot-wide piece of 10th Street would be vacated to allow the marina developer to properly align the docks.last_img read more

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