After weeks of debate, Ocean City City Council voiced overwhelming support to pass an ordinance allowing them to negotiate or use eminent domain to take over parts of properties where the owners have yet to sign easements for a dune project.
"This ordinance would authorize the administration to go forward to take the necessary steps to obtain through litigation the easements that we were not able to obtain from property owners voluntarily," said City Solicitor, Dottie McCrosson.
City officials say 25 easements are still needed but eight are expected to sign by next week. One resident yet to sign is Joe Balkovec who still has some skepticism about the project.
"The question remains what are you getting in return. Arguably you are getting further protection. Frankly we weren't harmed at all, virtually no one from this block was harmed by Sandy," said Balkovec.
Balkovec says he can speak only for his property when he says he believes the dunes are high enough as they are. As for receiving something in return, city officials say property owners will have the chance to sell part of their property for its appraised value rather than have it taken by eminent domain. No one from the public spoke at the meeting and council member’s fully supported the project.
"I stand by my previous statement to go get ‘em and if someone wants a fight, give it to them," said Councilman Michael DeVlienger.
"We're heading in the right direction, we're fine," said Councilman Peter Guinoso.
"I'm all for the ordinance and look forward to pushing this forward," said Council President Tony Wilson.
Joe Balkovec says he plans to eventually sign the easement as he realizes the need for dunes in other parts of the island.
"I do understand other areas that required other dunes."
Now that the ordinance has passed, city officials say they will move forward with appraisals for the seventeen properties where owners are not expected to sign easements.
City Council also heard plans that call for a marina and restaurant on the bay near 10th Street. The plans also call for what residents say is a much needed fueling station for boats to the area.
City Council voted to bring the measure to a second reading and public forum at the city's council meeting on November 21st.
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