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Island’s Visual Landscape Starts With Setting Building Heights

Sep 14, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

On Long Beach Island, tucked into its own corner of the Jersey Shore, the look and feel of coastal living offer myriad styles, from Victorian homes in Beach Haven to old-school Cape Cods in Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City to Hampton-style homes in Harvey Cedars and Loveladies and beach cottages in Barnegat Light. It’s not to say any one community has only one style home; that would be boring, and homes on LBI are anything but.

Defining residential zones just about anywhere in the world begins with two words – building height. Nowhere, perhaps, is that more evident than on LBI, where six communities share contiguous land that’s just 18 miles, maybe a little more, in length.

Any number of factors go into determining building height, including such things as the flood maps and location. In the nearly six years after Superstorm Sandy decimated the Jersey Shore, the Island’s visual landscape has changed – at least in most towns.

Long Beach Township: Atop the list is Long Beach Township, which encompasses 12 non-abutting miles of the Island. In all AE and AO zones, shown on the current FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map, no building can exceed 34 feet in height, according to an ordinance last amended in August 2013.

The 34-foot building height is in play on bayfront lots and lagoon lots within a minimum of 200 feet from the waters of the bay and on which the lagoon lots front. To determine the building height, the measurement is taken from the crown of the road or easement or finished grade of the lot where the building is located, with a maximum grade elevation of 5 feet above mean sea level, according to an ordinance last amended in October 2016.

In all oceanfront VE zones, as shown on the current FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map, the building height is set at 36 feet.

For interior flag lots, parcels of land that lie at the end of a long driveway, behind other homes or buildings, or open land, and not generally visible from the road, measurement is taken from the crown of the public road or easement which the flag property fronts with the point of measurement taken at the crown of the road or easement at the center point of the flag and running on a straight line perpendicular to the edge of the road or easement.

In the V Zone-14, the oceanfront V Zone, building or structures located on lots regulated by the established oceanfront building line cannot exceed 36 feet. Information on accessories, such as chimneys and flagpoles, can be found in the ordinance on the township website.

Barnegat Light: The building height is defined as the vertical dimension measured from the crown of the nearest improved street where the building is located to the horizontal plane of the highest point of the structure’s roof.  Just last year, the borough council considered raising the building height from 30 feet to 32 feet. Property owners overwhelming told officials to keep the building height at 30 feet, which is more in line with the character of the borough’s aesthetics.

Harvey Cedars: Just down the Boulevard in Harvey Cedars, building height is the difference in elevation from the crown of the established road, street, or easement grade at the center of the front yard to the highest point of the building. On the oceanside of the Boulevard, the established grade is at the higher point of either the existing street or easement, of the established street profile, according to the zoning ordinance. For properties fronting the east side of Long Beach Boulevard, building height is based on the closest east/west easement or street on the eastward side of the Boulevard.

On the bayside, for lots that have been filled 20 inches above the centerline street grade, the building height increases by one foot.

“No building or structure shall exceed a maximum sloped-roof height of 32 feet,” the ordinance reads. “When existing setbacks do not meet or exceed the required setbacks of the district, the height shall not exceed 30 feet.”

The ordinance also determines a flat-roofed building with a pitch less than one in 12 cannot exceed 28 feet in height, while setting the deck railing maximum height at 31 feet.  Buildings or structures on a lot with 30 feet or less of frontage can exceed 24 feet in height. Lots exceeding 30 feet in frontage may exceed the 24-foot height limit at a rate of one additional foot for every two feet of additional lot width.

Surf City: Building height for most of the homes in the borough is 33 feet and is measured from the crown of the road. Homes in the Lazy Point area are 29 feet above grade unless the home is on pilings. If that’s the case, the building height is 33 feet. Oceanfront building is set at 34 feet in height from an elevation determined by striking a line, perpendicular to the building line, at the elevation thereof and running to the lot elevation at the setback line at the opposite side of the lot from the building line. The oceanfront height is to be measured from the elevation established at the midpoint in the line so struck between the building line and the opposite side setback line.

Ship Bottom: The maximum building height for most of the borough is 32 feet and 2½ stories for lots that conform to the standard dimensions. For non-conforming lots of less than 40 feet in width, a one-story habitable living space of no more than 24 feet is permitted. In some of the commercial zones, the building height can extend to no more than 35 feet.

Earlier this year, the Ship Bottom Borough Council set in motion a series of construction measures to help alleviate flooding west of the Boulevard. The measures regulate building heights, lot elevation and drainage. For specific information, refer to ordinances 2018-08 and 2018-09. Both can be found in the municipal code book on the borough’s website.

Beach Haven: At the southern end of the Island, the borough’s building height is determined by a measurement from the center-line grade of the nearest improved road or easement. In the case where a property fronts two or more streets, the elevation of the existing center-line street grade to the lowest street is used to make the determination. The building height is set at 35 feet and cannot exceed three stories, according to an ordinance amended in 2013.

— Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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