10th Street marina redevelopment plan heads to City Council

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The redevelopment plan for the 10th Street and Palen Avenue property formerly known as Dan's Dock and Seafood. The redevelopment plan for the 10th Street and Palen Avenue property formerly known as Dan's Dock and Seafood.

OCEAN CITY — The redevelopment plan for the former Dan’s Dock and Seafood at 10th and Palen Avenue will head to City Council after receiving unanimous support from the Ocean City Planning Board at its Sept. 25 meeting.

The developers, the Gill family of Ocean City operating as Bayfront Preservation Foundation, LLC, presented the plan Wednesday for a three-story building, transient slips, a fuel dock and pump out station and about 40 parking spaces at the once-thriving marina and seafood restaurant, which has fallen into disrepair over the years.

Gary Griffith, attorney for the planning board, noted that planning board’s action was in no way a site plan approval.

“Under the rehabilitation statute that exists in the state of New Jersey, there is an entire process that’s followed whenever there is an area in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation,” Griffith said. “The governing body is the larger body in the transaction. After the governing body makes a determination, things start happening before the planning board.”

Tiffany Cuviello, the planner retained by the Gills for this project, said that the goals of the redevelopment plan are to: protect and enhance the use of land along the Intracoastal Waterway for the purpose of conducting marine commercial activities; provide for renewal and revitalization of a pre-existing marina, enhancing the opportunities for commercial marina development along the bay; encourage opportunities for new marine commercial development; and create new job opportunities.

The Gill family includes son Patrick and his parents, Beverly and Tom, who live across the street from the dilapidated property on Palen Avenue. The family is the contract purchaser of the .43 acres of bayfront land currently owned by two banks.

“We have an agreement with the two banks that are foreclosing on the property,” Patrick Gill said. “The timing on that is somewhat limited. If we don’t have this done in the next several months, we may lose the opportunity.”

The Gills are longtime business owners in the area. They currently operate TackleDirect in Egg Harbor Township and Island Beach Gear in Ocean City, as well as three online stores, all under the umbrella of eCommerce Outdoors. In fact, until 2003 the Gills owned a portion of the 10th street property where they operated a fuel dock, a boat lift, the Dockside Café and a boat rental facility. Patrick Gill said that a competitor opened a similar operation on the former Dan’s portion of the property and, in 2003, that owner acquired the Gills’ portion of the property.

The property eventually fell into disrepair, with the restaurant closing about four years ago, Gill said. He said that the property changed hands multiple times since then.

In May 2012, the city of Ocean City installed a fence around the property, citing safety concerns.

“The site is somewhat an infamous site being perhaps the only site in your community that would literally meet the definition of being blighted,” attorney Stephen Nehmad told the planning board.

Nehmad, of Nehmad, Perillo and Davis in Egg Harbor Township, represents the Gills. He said the state of the property was exacerbated by Hurricane Sandy.

In March, City Council approved a resolution deeming the property in need of rehabilitation at the request of the Gill family.

“There is perhaps not an aspect of the site that is not in need of improvement,” Nehmad said, adding that it floods often. “The bulkhead is in desperate need of repair, there are buried tanks that are in need of repair.”

He said there are also upland and waterfront improvements needed.

“It is all of these aspects of the site which this plan of redevelopment plans to fully improve,” Nehmad said.

He said that the Gill family intends to proceed with the site plan as presented Wednesday. Due to this, there are bulk and design requirement changes proposed to the MVH zone in the redevelopment plan that would help the applicant avoid needing variances and waivers during site plan approval.

The proposed building stands at 59 feet, 6 inches with no setbacks on the front or rear yards. Located in the marine village harbor (MVH) zone, the Gills are proposing a building that has what Nehmad called “a shorefront look” similar to the Roy Gillian Welcome Center on the Route 52 causeway.

According to the redevelopment plan, the development of this property, referred to as 10th St. Wharf, is intended to provide for greater open space areas than would otherwise be permitted under the current regulations by locating the building on the south side of the property as to not obstruct bay views.

Cuviello explained that there are underground fuel storage tanks on the property that need to be removed, repaired or replaced. The two buildings on the property’s south end will be demolished and replaced with one building. On the first floor will be a restaurant, the second floor will have retail and office space for the Gills, and the third floor will be a residence for Tom and Beverly Gill. There will also be a “widow’s walk” overlooking the bay.

There are 44 proposed parking spaces and a minimum of 18 boat slips. The plan calls for improvements to the bulkhead and docks that currently exist, and a public fuel dock and pump out station, of which Cuviello said there are none currently in Ocean City. The existing sheds and buildings on the dock will be rehabilitated as part of the marina operations.

The plan also calls for the vacation of 17.25 feet along 10th Street to allow for the building improvements, parking and bulkhead repairs. An easement will be granted back to the city for any utilities in the right of way.

Nehmad said the Gills will not seek tax abatement on the property. The Gills’ engineer is Joseph Maffei of Engineering Design Associates and their architect is Dan Wheaton.

Upon review, city planner Randy Scheule concluded that the redevelopment plan was consistent with the city’s master plan. Board engineer Andrew Previti addressed several engineering concerns that he would like to see incorporated into the redevelopment plan, including responsibility for the underground fuel tanks, plans for decking at the property, and paving and utility improvements to Palen Avenue.

Nehmad said many of Previti’s concerns are not for the redevelopment plan approval stage, but rather for site plan approval.

Several people came forward in support of the redevelopment plan including some of the Gills’ neighbors.

Joseph Young of the 900 block of Palen Avenue said that the property is a blight and a safety hazard.

“I commend the Gills and their group for stepping up to take this challenge on,” he said. “We have a great deal to gain by having this done, of course.”

“I can’t encourage you enough to support the Gills and their project,” said Carla Migliaccio, a neighbor to Young. “Ever since the bridge project and the closing of the marina, it feels like were living in a Third World country down there.”

Tina Wagner of West 10th Street has lived in the area since 1987. She said the end of the street is embarrassing for the neighborhood and the entire neighborhood wants the project to go forward.

Ed Berger of Amherst Avenue in Margate, a licensed charter captain operating out of Margate, said he was excited about the prospect on a public fuel dock in Ocean City.

“It would be very convenient for boaters and fishermen to have these facilities in Ocean City,” he said.

Brian Logue, a past commodore of the Ocean City Marlin and Tuna Club, expressed his and the organization’s support for the redevelopment plan.

Griffith suggested that there were three parts to the planning board’s affirmative vote: to accept and approve Scheule’s report and its conclusions; to accept Previti’s memorandum and its conclusions; and to find the redevelopment plan is consistent with the Ocean City Master Plan.

“I grew up in this town and I saw all the marinas disappear. It’s nice to see one come back,” said planning board Chairman John Loeper.

On Thursday, Patrick Gill said he was happy with the results of Wednesday’s vote.

“Not only were we excited about the approval, we were ecstatic by the public comments,” he said. “It’s a good thing for Ocean City. It’s a good thing for the neighborhood. We’re proud to be helping to make it happen.”

Next, council will consider approving the redevelopment plan as an ordinance, which will require introduction, a public hearing and a final vote, before the developer can go before the planning board for site plan approval. Gill expects that the plan will be before council at an October meeting.

The redevelopment plan for the 10th Street and Palen Avenue property formerly known as Dan's Dock and Seafood. The redevelopment plan for the 10th Street and Palen Avenue property formerly known as Dan's Dock and Seafood.

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