EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Northfield developer Bandi Property Group made a $650,000 offer on the vacant Inn of the Dove that was accepted Wednesday, prior to an on-site auction.

Once considered a “cheater’s hideaway,” the decrepit motel is now an empty eyesore on the Black Horse Pike where squatters are rumored to live. Two interested buyers toured the property, walking past tall grass and rooms filled with dirty clothes and bugs.

But Michael Burns, co-owner of Bandi Property Group, sees potential in the rundown property.

His bid on the former motel was accepted by seller Irma Investments before the 2 p.m. auction Wednesday even officially began, AC Auctions Realty owner Robert Salvato told a few visibly disappointed potential buyers standing in the building’s parking lot.

The South Jersey-based real estate developer wants to turn the 40 hotel units into apartments. The area is not zoned for apartments, though, according to the township, so the plans would require a variance.

Burns said his firm, which buys and rehabs distressed properties across New Jersey, will conduct environmental and structural inspections at the site before finalizing a settlement.

“It’s an eyesore right now,” Burns said. “But we pride ourselves on renovating properties like this.”

The property on the Black Horse Pike is assessed at $1.1 million, township records show. Fire officials closed the inn in February 2018, citing a faulty fire alarm system and $8,000 owed in fines and penalties to the township.

Before it closed, police in 2017 responded to more than 50 calls relating to warrant arrests, domestic violence, assaults and other incidents, police records show. Two guests sued the owners that year, alleging they suffered “severe bed bug infestations” and injuries from slipping in a jetted bathtub.

Its unpleasant history did not stop at least one local developer from stopping by the auction, though.

Matt Portnoy, owner of Matt Portnoy & Sons junkyard in Egg Harbor Township, showed up to Wednesday’s public sale hoping to make an offer before quickly learning the seller had already accepted an offer.

Portnoy recently purchased land less than a mile away for $100,000, real estate records show, and said he’s opening a storage facility there. As for his Black Horse Pike neighbor, he thinks the Inn of the Dove is beyond repair and envisioned demolishing it.

“This place is ready for the wrecking ball,” he said, facing the motel.

The Inn of the Dove opened in the mid-1980s, said township Administrator Peter Miller, when casino gambling was beginning to draw more tourists to nearby Atlantic City. It operated for decades with no complaints, he said.

At its height, the motel was a “cheater’s hideaway” complete with hot tubs and “pornographic televisions,” former Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough has said.

But Miller said the inn went downhill around the 2008 recession as fewer visitors spent money in Atlantic City. A number of motels along the pike closed in the coming years, while others started attracting fewer families and couples and instead became havens for crime.

“After the economy went bad, things started to go,” Miller said. “A lot of our motels started suffering, and quite a few went out of business from lack of customers.”

There are eight remaining eyesore motels in West Atlantic City, which the township has been hoping to demolish for years as part of a redevelopment plan. Officials last year applied for a $2.4 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to tear down four of them: the Destiny Inn, Bay Point Inn, Hi Ho Motel and Budget Motel.

AC Auction Realty was also hired by the owners of Atlantic City’s Bayview Inn to sell the Route 40 property at a public sale Wednesday. But the motel, where an alligator was found during a 2017 drug raid, has a demolition order on it and the auction was called off at the request of the city, said auctioneer Salvato.

Atlantic City Licensing and Inspections Director Dale Finch said the crumbling and graffiti-covered inn could be torn down in the coming days — a long-awaited demolition that will cost $240,000 and be funded by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

“We’re going to proceed with demolition,” Finch said. “Now we’re trying to get the documents for the demolition permit and getting various utilities shut off. ... It’s coming down.”

Contact: 609-272-7258 azoppo@pressofac.com Twitter @AvalonZoppo

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