Discussion Rises Over Barnegat Light Height Limit IncreaseBorough’s House Height Is Lowest on LBI
A 2-foot increase in building height limit introduced April 12 by the Barnegat Light Borough Council will face a public hearing at the 5 p.m. May 10 meeting. The ordinance amends the zoning code to change the allowable building height from 30 feet to 32 feet for residences.
Proponents, including a majority of council members, noted that other municipalities on Long Beach Island already changed to 35 feet, especially due to the post-Superstorm Sandy need to elevate homes above the level of flooding. Many had already had their height limit set at 32 feet before they raised it to 35 feet.
Some architects are noting that attractive peaked-roof construction does not easily fit into a 30-foot height when homeowners want multiple stories designed into the home.
Mayor Kirk Larson elaborated on that. “There is a lot of thought that it would be aesthetically better looking than to try and jam three floors into 30 feet. You can’t do it without a flat roof.”
Larson added, “What we’re doing is really not the end of the world. It just makes houses a little more aesthetically good-looking.”
Also, “People are going to get flooded out if they continue to build three-story houses with the bottom floor being at zero.”
The mayor was referring to a clause in the ordinance amendment stating “garage floors must be at least one inch above the crown of the road.” The reason for that specification, the mayor said, is so “you can’t dig your house into a hole to make it higher.”
However, the proposed 32-foot height does not have unanimous support.
Council member Dottie Reynolds voted against what she said moves toward altering the “fishing village” historic character of the town. She was also among those who noted that applicants have been turned down in the past when they requested a height variance.
With differing opinions circulating around town, a turnout is expected for the public hearing and second reading of the ordinance.
“It is important for the public to express their opinions so mayor and council know the wishes of homeowners,” Reynolds said after the meeting.
“They don’t even have to come to the meeting; they can email us,” the mayor said. (Email addresses of the borough and council members are listed on the borough website, barnegatlight.org.)
The ordinance amendment defines that the measurement for height would be taken from the crown of the nearest improved road or easement.
In two letters submitted to the editor of The SandPaper the week after the introduction (in this issue), both spoke against raising the height to 32 feet. Marlena Christensen, a 30-year resident, said her 60-year-old raised ranch was already “dwarfed” by new construction built before Sandy, and “more is not necessarily better” when ocean breezes, bright light and privacy for the pre-existing lots are at stake.
Another letter writer, Bob Crimmins of East 18th Street, questioned the need for the height addition in Barnegat Light. He added that Barnegat Light is “unlike places such as Surf City and Ship Bottom, where a significant number of Sandy-flooded bayside homes need to be raised in order to alleviate future flooding risks.”
Crimmins cited several “detriments” to existing homeowners. One is “With the current 30-foot height limit having been in place for quite some time, the general relationship of floor heights for the homes in Barnegat Light has been maintained in a reasonably uniform fashion; while, by adding an additional 2 foot height limit, in many cases the individual floors of newer homes will be ‘looking down’ upon the corresponding floors of their neighbors,” he said.
In borough hall as of six days after the meeting, the borough had gotten three responses from the public against the height limit change and two for it, Larson said.
The marine commercial properties in Barnegat Light all have a height limit of 32 feet presently, the mayor said.
“That’s half of Bayview, all the marinas. This would just be in residential, and we also put it in the ordinance that it would only be single-family housing, not multi-family dwellings.”
— Maria Scandale