Mayor Touts Ocean City Improvements From “Beach to Bay”

first_imgBy DONALD WITTKOWSKIOcean City will continue with its strategy of improving the beaches, bayfront and Boardwalk to strengthen its reputation as a popular family-friendly vacation resort, Mayor Jay Gillian said Thursday night in his annual State of the City address.In his remarks, Gillian repeatedly focused on infrastructure projects and quality-of-life issues that are critical for making the city attractive to residents and tourists as well as promoting its image as “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”“The city is making major improvements to every part of Ocean City – from beach to bay – tip to tip. At the same time, we continue to deliver responsible budgets year after year,” he told members of City Council.He also unveiled his proposed 2020 municipal budget, a nearly $83 million spending plan that would increase local taxes by a half-cent. Under the budget, the owner of a $500,000 home would pay an extra $25 annually in local taxes, the city’s Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato said.Gillian touted the city’s financial strength, noting that the budget includes a record $8 million surplus. In another measure of the city’s sound financial footing, the combined value of its real estate – the ratable base – increased by more than $100 million for the sixth year in a row, he said.“We are the fourth most valuable city in all of New Jersey,” Gillian said of the tax base.The city maintains an “exceptional” AA bond rating, which allows it to borrow money at lower interest rates, he pointed out.“Our bond rating and low interest rates helped the city absorb an $85 million bond sale for capital improvements while keeping a proposed 2020 tax increase at a half-penny,” Gillian said.Upgrades to the Boardwalk will continue to be part of the city’s capital improvements.Throughout his 10 years as mayor, Gillian has concentrated on upgrading the city’s roads, drainage systems, beaches, Boardwalk and bayfront.The completion of three major neighborhood drainage projects, including 10 stormwater pumping stations, has improved the quality of life for residents in flood-prone areas, he said.“Ocean City is taking a lead in finding solutions related to coastal flooding on barrier islands,” he said. “The elevation of homes and infrastructure, installation of pumping stations, replacement of bulkheads and barriers, creation of living shorelines, purchase of open space and various other ideas are all part of our overall flood protection strategy.”Looking ahead, Gillian said the city will proceed this year with an ambitious road improvement program, beach replenishment work, upgrades to the Boardwalk and a series of dredging projects to clear out the sediment-clogged lagoons along the back bays.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently completed a project to rebuild beaches and dunes at the south end of Ocean City. It will return in the spring to pump an estimated 1.4 million cubic yards of new sand onto the north end beaches in time for the summer season, the mayor said.On the Boardwalk, the city plans to extend the decking at the street ends of Ninth Street, 10th Street and 11th Street for restrooms. Plans also call for the city to add accessible ramps over the dunes at Waverly Beach and onto the Boardwalk at St Charles Place.“I’m looking forward to another productive year in Ocean City,” Gillian said in closing remarks. “I want to thank City Council for their continued cooperation, hard work and dedication in tackling an aggressive agenda on behalf of all citizens, guests and taxpayers.”“As mayor, I will make sure our city is clean, safe and family-friendly, and will commit the resources to make that happen,” he continued.An architectural rendering shows the proposed housing project slated for one of the properties the city is looking to buy to protect it from development.In other business Thursday night, Council approved three bond ordinances totaling $11.9 million to purchase three pieces of property that would be combined into one large swath of public open space.“This is a rare chance to protect an entire city block from residential development. Whenever similar opportunities arise, we will pursue them,” Gillian said.The land is bordered by 16th and 17th streets between Simpson and Haven avenues and includes the former Perry-Egan Chevrolet dealership lot. A large chunk of the property is proposed for a 22-lot housing development by brothers Jerry and Harry Klause, owners of Klause Enterprises.Gillian and Council want to buy the land to protect it from densely packed housing construction that would add to the town’s overdevelopment. They envision it becoming a major part of a large corridor of open space stretching from 15th to 20th streets.“God isn’t making any more land on the island,” Councilman Michael DeVlieger said, echoing the comments of other members of the governing body about the importance of acquiring the property.Negotiations have begun between the city and property owners. However, the city is leaving open the possibility of using its condemnation powers to seize the land if negotiations fail. If that happens, the dispute would end up in the courts and a judge would decide the price for the land, City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said.McCrosson told Council that the property owners have not yet accepted the city’s buyout offer.The three bond ordinances will put the money in place to buy the property, even if a court battle ensues over the final price.“Time will tell if we end up going to court,” Councilman Keith Hartzell said.City Council approves three bond ordinances totaling $11.9 million to buy a block of land. Mayor Jay Gillian, shown at a City Council meeting in February, emphasizes that the city is committed to reducing the flooding problems.last_img read more