BELMAR — Down to Earth Construction, which outbid the borough to buy the former headquarters of the Belmar First Aid Squad [BFAS], has retracted its bid, leaving the question of who will own the property in doubt.
Down to Earth Construction had bid roughly $1.4 million to purchase the building in a sealed bid process, coming ahead of the borough, which submitted a bid of $1.1 million. The results of the bidding were announced last week.
As far as what made the construction firm cease in its interest in the property, Kenneth Pringle, the attorney representing the Belmar First Aid Squad, said that the company withdrew its bid because the borough had threatened to use eminent domain if the BFAS entered into a contract with the company.
While the withdrawal leaves the borough as the sole bidder for the property, Mr. Pringle said that the first aid squad “reserved the right in its request for bids to reject all bids, so that it would not be forced to accept a low-ball bid.”
“The request-for-bid process the BFAS used was designed to elicit bids that would establish the fair market value of the property,” he added, continuing that the borough’s valuation came at $200,000 less than an assessment of the property in 2017.
“The bid made by Down to Earth, which is an experienced developer and very familiar with the Belmar real estate market, set that value,” he said.
As for what is next, Mr. Pringle said that he will be discussing future options with members of the former Belmar First Aid Squad.
Mayor Mark Walsifer discussed the acquisition of the first aid headquarters at Tuesday night’s council meeting, and said he has spoken with Bill Merkler, who co-owns Down to Earth Construction.
“I had a conversation with Mr. Merkler over the weekend and he understood the importance, since he lives in town, of having that building as a public safety building to house Belmar first aid and water rescue,” the mayor said, adding that he “appreciated” Mr. Merkler’s decision to withdraw the bid.
“I am not sure where we go from here, but we will be discussing it with the borough attorney moving forward.”
At the meeting, the mayor said the borough had a certified appraisal of the property done, which was the amount that was bid – $1.1 million.
The BFAS had stipulated that those who bought the property could not build a non-conforming use on the site, which is in a residential area. The half-acre lot would have enough space to construct three single-family homes.
The Belmar First Aid Squad ceased operations on April 1, amid a row with the borough over its annual stipend.
The squad, which served Belmar and Lake Como, was replaced by a borough-run first aid squad, which also covers both municipalities. Ambulances that once belonged to the BFAS were bought by the borough, and are currently parked outside the Howard Rowland Public Safety Pavilion at the intersection of 10th and Ocean avenues.
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