Barnegat Light Building Height Change May Be Shot Down

Keep Existing Limit, Most Taxpayers Say
Jun 13, 2017

An overwhelming show of hands at Saturday’s Barnegat Light Taxpayers Association meeting may result in tabling a controversial proposal to raise the building height limit to 32 feet.

“I think we’re going to table it,” Mayor Kirk Larson said on Tuesday, the day before the monthly Borough Council meeting.

“I’m not going to push something that people don’t want.”

Strong applause had come after someone in the audience said on Saturday, “Thirty feet is high enough.”

Property owners were giving their opinions on an ordinance that would raise the limit from 30 feet to 32 feet. It was expected to be discussed further at the June borough council meeting. When the proposal began drawing as much, or more, protest than agreement, Larson said he wanted to hear opinions at the large gathering of the taxpayers.

On Saturday, the mayor took a visual poll after hearing taxpayers speak for and against raising the height limit. He asked for a show of hands. What seemed to be about seven hands, certainly less than 10, were raised when he asked how many wanted the allowable height limit to be 32 feet. The rest of the room of about 70 people raised their hands when he asked how many wanted to keep it the same.

Several homeowners had said they thought the current 30 feet height limit was more in character with the current aesthetics of the borough, and gave enough room to build a three-story house. Yet a real estate professional was among those who said a 32-foot limit could result in higher property values. In general, some architects had favored an option to build higher than 30 feet. Bayside flooding, and thus a need for raising homes, was another consideration why the proposal came up in the first place.

In a brief telephone interview with The SandPaper on Tuesday, the mayor added that council “is just going to discuss” the issue again on Wednesday, June 14.

“I should have asked for a vote from the bayside people,” he remarked. “The people on the bayside have a chance of getting flooded. The oceanside people don’t have that to worry about. Maybe from a hurricane like Katrina, with 160 mile-per-hour winds, there would be some roofs missing.

“We’ll probably table it,” the mayor repeated. “We have an election coming up, too.”

Among other questions the mayor received on topics of interest, a taxpayer asked how much the proposed concert pavilion will cost when it is built on the West 6th Street lot. Larson said, “We’re going to try to keep it under $200,000.”

Construction will take longer than originally expected, due to engineering requirements to build a steel support structure. In addition to the cost of the steel members, labor and concrete work will be part of the cost picture.

Survey Results Online

On Recreation Topics

In the meantime, results are in from the third annual Member Survey of the taxpayers’ group. They will be passed on to the borough council.

“The BLTA wants to take the pulse of our members and seek input on items that are important to them,” said the survey. “This year’s theme was ‘recreation,’ so our questions focused on outdoor activities that people participate in or would like to participate in.”

Mini golf apparently is a popular activity. Asked, “What activities interest you most?” mini golf polled highest, with 47 percent of respondents choosing it. Second place was a children’s playground. Tennis scored third, at 38 percent, followed by pickleball.

The mayor was asked if he knew when a miniature golf course will be built at 5th Street and Broadway, as was approved by the planning board last year. Larson said that correspondence has indicated there is an unfinished matter regarding a state Coastal Area Facilities Review Act (CAFRA) permit.

Another question asked taxpayers to rate the condition of the bay beach swim area. Forty-two percent said they don’t use it. “Good enough,” was the second highest answer from 33 percent of the 489 respondents.

The summer concerts at the gazebo on the 8th Street bayfront are popular. Asked whether the number of concerts is “about right,” 72 percent said yes. Only 10 percent said they were not interested.

— Maria Scandale

Comments (1)
Posted by: Bill McVail | Jun 16, 2017 15:27

"Thirty feet is high enough"


My sincere thanks to Mayor Larson and borough council, who decided Wednesday night to table this broad change to the height restrictions that would, in my mind, pull at the fabric of what makes Barnegat Light a unique and special community.  While I do support discussions on potential zoning variances for bayside residents who have to deal with potential flooding issues (and it sounds like borough council will look at this in greater detail moving forward), the proposed zoning change that would have affected the entire town never made sense to me - or the overwhelming majority of homeowners and taxpayers who let Mayor Larson know exactly that at last weekend's BLTA meeting.

At the end of the day, this broad, sweeping change to zoning rules that would have allowed bigger, taller houses was never something that made sense for the entire community.  I both welcome and thank the mayor and council for not coming down on the side of the individual homebuilder - whose taller house and higher real estate values would never take into account the impact that would have (both financially as well as physically) on the houses near their property...or the realtors or other related service providers who looked at the financial benefits that bigger (and more expensive) houses would bring to Barnegat Light, without giving equal weight to the impact of a wave of new development that would make Barnegat Light like every other oceanfront town.  The Mayor and council listened to the residents of the community - who were energized by this proposal and voiced in overwhelming numbers their desire to keep Barnegat Light the unique community that we all love.

And if that means that there is a ceiling to what the value of my house can appreciate to, that is fine by me.  If i wanted to look at my vacation home purely from the lens of what is the most desirable market for appreciating real estate values, there are MANY other communities I could have chosen from.  I chose Barnegat Light precisely because it is NOT that kind of community.  I was happy to build my house under the existing zoning rules, because thirty feet IS high enough.

Bill McVail, Barnegat Light

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