• November 12, 2018

After 10 years, an agreement on Lifesaving Station - Ocean City Sentinel: News

After 10 years, an agreement on Lifesaving Station

Coalition, property owners agree on price and timeline left to save historic building

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Posted: Thursday, November 12, 2009 12:00 am

For ten years the Ocean City Lifesaving Station has sat vacant as a battle was fought between the property’s owners, Ralph Pansini and Roger Parkin, and historic preservationists who want the building spared from demolition.

The parties have reached an agreement that would allow the property to be sold for fair market value for preservation.

Pansini’s attorney, Steve Scherzer, said both his client and Save Our Station Coalition (SOS), the historic preservation group that’s fought the lifesaving station’s demolition, agreed on a fair market value for the property at $887,500.

In 2007, Superior Court Judge Joseph Visalli determined the fair market value of the station was $1,072,500 based on various appraisals from Pansini, local historic group Save Our Station Coalition and the city.

Pansini was given six months to sell the property at that fair market price. If the property was purchased in that time, the new owners would be obligated to preserve the lifesaving station as a historic property. If no buyer was found, Pansini could obtain a demolition permit from the Historic Preservation Commission. Pansini wants to demolish the building and subdivide the property and construct three duplexes on the site.

SOS members complained that Pansini wasn’t actively marketing the property to prospective buyers.

Scherzer said the new agreement stipulates that if anyone comes up with the $887,500, his clients will affirmatively agree to sell the property.

“My client has committed himself to selling that property. If a ready, willing and able buyer appears during the notice period which is six months and offers $887,500, we will sell it,” Scherzer said.

Scherzer said instead of undertaking an agreement of sale with a buyer, his client executed a deed and deposited it with an escrow agent, state Superior Court Judge George Seltzer.

“The first individual who shows up at Judge Seltzer’s office with the requisite money, he simply gives them the deed,” Scherzer said.

The agreement also empowers SOS to market the property for sale, bringing the historic preservation group into the process.

“To the extent that they’re able to get us a buyer, we are committed to selling it,” Scherzer said.

SOS President Charles London said the agreement spells out a concrete fair market value number for the property.

“Our fight all along has dealt a lot with getting the property available to be marketed at a fair market price for a historic structure. We finally got an agreement on that price,” London said.

London said SOS will market the property through newspapers, the Internet, and with advertising and signage. The group will also schedule appointments for showings of the property to interested parties.

“We’re finally at the point where we have a solid number that we can tell someone how much it will cost. One of the things in the past has been people who have been interested haven’t been able to get in. Now that we’re going to control that part of it, we can make sure that they can get in and see the place,” London said.

London said a standard contract has been prepared that outlines the conditions for sale. The property has also had an environmental certification so it’s free of underground tanks and other contaminants.

“A lot of things that would have put it in the way of a buyer coming forward have been removed,” London said.

According to London, the property’s owner has this weekend to clear out the building and turn over a copy of the keys to SOS. London said SOS could begin holding showings of the property by the middle of next week.

Scherzer said if no one buys the property after six months, Pansini could obtain a demolition permit without interference from any party.

“No one will appeal or contest the issuance of that demolition permit prior to Memorial Day,” Scherzer said. “That means that Save Our Station is committed to doing what it can to get a buyer and they believe they can get a buyer. If they do not get a buyer, then we need closure on the entire process.”

He called the new agreement a “win-win” for all parties.

“I think it helps everyone. It certainly helps the Save Our Station Coalition by having my client to commit to selling it, which makes for the preservation of this historic site in perpetuity and it certainly helps my people in that if in fact there is no buyer, we get closure,” Scherzer said.

Scherzer said his client requested the property be deed restricted for a minimum for ten years irrespective of whether there was an ordinance in place.

Timeline for Lifesaving Station


OCEAN CITY – The first U.S. Lifesaving Station in Ocean City was built in 1872. Consisting of a first floor and an attic, the building was replaced in 1885 by a red-roofed structure with a lookout tower, gabled roof and wraparound porch.


In 1915, the Life-Saving Service and Revenue Cutter Service joined together and formed the U.S. Coast Guard. The Ocean City Station was decommissioned in the 1940s and later became a private residence.


The city’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), denied the building’s former owner, Elizabeth Sheehan, a permit to demolish the wings of the building in February 1999.

In May of that year, the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment allowed a partial demolition with the stipulation the building’s core could be moved off site. The zoning board gave Sheehan six months to either find a buyer or relocate the building. Parkin and Pansini, under the company Pansini Custom Design, bought the property from Sheehan for $710,000 with plans to build three new duplexes on the site.

A group called Citizens for Historic Preservation (CHiP) filed a lawsuit, claiming the zoning board’s actions were illegal. As a result of the injunction, the Cape May County Superior Court issued a stay of demolition.

In 1999, the city hired Watson & Henry Associates, an architecture and planning firm, to perform a feasibility study on moving the station. While the report concluded moving the building was possible, the firm recommended against doing so.

Based on the report, council in June 1999 voted to protect the Lifesaving Station on site.

A month later, council rejected an $807,500 bond ordinance to preserve the station.


Parkin and Pansini agreed to sell the station for $3 million to the city, a price far greater than the $710,000 they originally bought it for.

In 2005, council approved an ordinance appropriating $3 million to acquire the station, but former Mayor Henry “Bud” Knight vetoed the ordinance and council moved to override the veto. Community members were able to get a referendum vote on the purchase; when it went to a vote in Ocean City, the public said no to the city buying the lifesaving station.


In early 2006, Parkin and Pansini offered to donate the building to the city as a “gift” as well as $500,000 for moving and restoring the station.

Council voted in February 2006 to accept the station as a gift and move it to a lot on Sixth Street and the Boardwalk, but the deal was contingent upon the city receiving a Coastal Areas Facility Review Act (CAFRA) permit, which was needed to move the building to a breachfront location.


The owners and the Saving Our Station Coalition finally agree on a selling price. If the home isn’t purchased by Memorial Day 2010, the owners can demolish it.

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