OCEAN CITY — Nearly 200 people attended a City Council workshop Thursday night, with every one of them in favor of a skate park being built on the island. But not everyone who supported the park agreed with its proposed location.
Following an hourlong Power Point presentation by 1st Ward Councilman Michael DeVlieger, in which he fastidiously detailed the process by which a subcommittee of 12 skate park devotees had ultimately chosen a city-owned parking lot at Fifth Street and Asbury Avenue as the best location among 21 sites considered, 19 members of the audience were each given two minutes to speak on the topic.
Almost all of those who spoke during the public comment portion of the two-hour session, held at the Ocean City Free Public Library, prefaced their remarks by stating they supported a skate park being built in town. The greatest objection to the proposed location, a lot that is bordered by a firehouse, a school, a church and commercial buildings, came from residents of the city’s Historic District, who — as owners of homes built in an era when transportation was primarily by horse and wagon and off-street parking was not the issue it is today in America’s Greatest Family Resort — have come to rely on the lot for parking.
DeVlieger repeatedly stressed the city’s commitment to reconfiguring the lot more efficiently and to replacing every parking spot that is lost. The plan under consideration requires a clothes closet operated by the Ecumenical Council to be relocated to the south side of the firehouse at Sixth Street, an issue for two of the public speakers and 4th Ward Councilman Pete Guinosso, who serves as the council’s vice president.
In addition to other concerns about noise and safety, the cost of the proposed $750,000 project was questioned. Councilman Keith Hartzell, an at-large candidate for re-election in the city’s May 13 municipal election, showed oversized photos of a skate park in Jupiter, Fla., that he said would cost $400,000 to build versus the almost-twice-as-costly proposed Ocean City park. “I am duty bound to get the price tag down,” Hartzell said.
In regard to the park’s cost, for which the city has budgeted $250,000, DeVlieger said it is possible that Green Acres/Cape May County Open Space Recreation Grant Funding would pay for a large part of the remainder because the skate park is unique and offers diversified recreation. The deadline for the city’s application for those funds is April 15, and a requirement of the application is that the proposed site be identified.
The workshop was followed by a town hall meeting, in which DeVlieger addressed the concerns of those who had spoken. By that time, only 30 people remained in the audience.
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