OCEAN CITY — Tom Gill said his family misses the marina business and now wants back in, something he said is in Ocean City’s best interest, too.
Gill, 64, and his son, Patrick, 35, are the principals of Bayport Preservation Foundation LLC, the contract purchaser for four lots bordered by 10th Street, Palen Avenue and the bay, popularly referred to as Dan’s Dockside Marina.
The closed marina and restaurant is an eyesore, a detriment to the neighborhood and an environmental hazard, said the Gills, who want to reopen the restaurant and docks. They said the goal is partly to make money, but also partly a labor of love.
“What both my wife and I dearly miss is the marina,” Tom Gill said. “It was our lifestyle for almost 50 years.”
The Gills owned the property at one time but sold it a dozen years ago. The father and son wanted to focus on their other business, Tackle Direct, which was then expanding from its facility in Ocean City and is now headquartered in Egg Harbor Township.
Today, the property is in disrepair. The docks are rotting, the bulkhead collapsed, the restaurant is filled with mold and an underground fuel tank is leaking.
The city says there has been a record of late tax payments on the property since 2004. It is now abandoned by its owner and in foreclosure, according to the city.
Property tax records indicate that as of last year, the property was owned by Capitol Builders Inc., of Voorhees, care of BNB Bank. The four lots were assessed at a total of $3.2 million.
The first step in turning the property around is getting the city to declare it in need of rehabilitation. The Gills made a presentation before City Council on Feb. 28 asking it to do that.
“It’s a difficult project,” Patrick Gill told the council members. “It’s bank-owned, it’s in the process of foreclosure. Our family sees this as an opportunity to give something back to Ocean City.”
At the same time, he said, they hope to get something back.
“We probably shouldn’t have sold it,” he said, “because if we hadn’t sold it we probably would have been able to move forward and be able to grow and keep it as an asset for Ocean City instead of a blighted property.”
Council agreed, approving a resolution asking the Planning Board to review the situation and make a recommendation on whether the site is indeed in need of rehabilitation.
“To have a working marina there with professional operators who are going to take care of it and let our community enjoy the bayfront for many generations to come is certainly worth us looking into,” Councilman Keith Hartzell said.
Tom Gill said if it is deemed in need of rehabilitation, the city would be able to help finance the project, which is key because he said no bank would provide a loan for a property with such environmental problems.
The land is currently fenced in, but that hasn’t stopped it from adversely affecting the neighborhood.
Since Hurricane Sandy further wrecked the already dilapidated docks and bulkhead, water from the bay routinely pours over the property and onto Palen Avenue. Underground fuel tanks have also filled with water, pushing out oil that leaves an unpleasant gleam on the floodwaters.
Neighbors are happy to hear something may be done about it.
“All the people here, one and all, in unison, will be out applauding the day we see that work start,” said Joe Young, an 11-year resident of Palen Avenue.
Young also said that the Gills are the right people for the job. Tom Gill started working in marinas when he was about 14, and Patrick started at about the same age. The family has owned and operated several marinas and related businesses in Ocean City, including the former Pleasure Marina and the Northeastern Marine boat-building company.
The goal with redeveloping Dan’s Dockside will be to tear up most of it and rebuild in the same footprint, reopening the restaurant and restoring fuel service at the docks, which is currently nonexistent on the island.
Tom and his wife, Beverley, live right across Palen Avenue from the property. When they owned it, she ran the restaurant and he ran the marina, and they hope to do that again.
“I don’t expect to make a fortune out of it, but I don’t want to lose any money, either,” Tom Gill said.
As far as what Beverley Gill seeks out of it, she joked that “fish mooching” is at the top of her list, explaining that fishermen used to give them fresh fish on a regular basis.
“I haven’t had a nice piece of striper since we sold the marina,” she said.
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