Gasoline Alley

Ocean City resident Mike Matthews walks his dog Emma near an unfinished housing development at Ninth Street and Wesley Avenue, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Under the city's newly approved Abandoned Properties ordinance, the site would qualify for inclusion on the list. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)

OCEAN CITY – After months of discussion and revisions, an abandoned properties ordinance was passed on second reading by council without comment Thursday night.

The ordinance empowers an assigned official to place neglected buildings on an Abandoned Properties list, the start of a process that could ultimately result in the city’s taking the blighted spots by eminent domain. Owners would be notified when their properties were added to the list and given an opportunity to address issues in order to have their properties removed from the list.

The ordinance was prompted by three vacant gas stations at the Ninth Street entrance to the island. Residents asked that the city expand its focus beyond the gateway to include such nuisance properties as an unfinished housing development at Ninth Street and Wesley Avenue and Palermo’s supermarket at Fourth Street and Asbury Avenue.

The powers of the ordinance are supported by state statute, said attorney Michael Stanton, who was sitting in for City Solicitor Dottie McCrosson.

Before council conducted the final business of outgoing Council President Tony Wilson’s one-year term, a contingent of 30 pickleball players packed Council Chambers with a request the city go out to bid again on a project to convert tennis courts to pickleball courts.

The one bid received was double what the city estimated the project would cost, Business Administrator Jim Mallon said.

Don Hepner, of the 3600 block of Central Avenue, spoke on behalf of the supporters in attendance, many of whom applauded at the conclusion of his five-minute public comment. Hepner said he analyzed the use of the six tennis courts at 18th Street during their busiest days in July and August last year and found they were unused 80 percent of the time.

He advocated for a less ambitious project than what the city put out to bid and asked for a fast resolution to the situation. Councilman Michael DeVlieger suggested what the city may need to do is to split the project in two and solicit bids for resurfacing tennis courts and creating pickleball courts.

Ocean City Council will hold a reorganization meeting at 1 p.m. July 1 in Council Chambers to elect a new president and vice president. This was not an election year in Ocean City, so no new council members will be sworn in.

First female hired in the history of The Press sports department (April 1980). I've been a news editor, food editor and reporter, and have interviewed Muhammad Ali, several Miss Americas and chefs who have cooked for presidents and royalty.

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