Surf City Homeowners Denied Variance for Home Built Off-Center

Oct 10, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Howard and Ellen Rose’s dream home in Surf City has turned into something of a nightmare. When the home, located at 2419 North Ocean Ave., was nearly finished, they learned it was built off-center from the spot where the home was located on approved plans.

Last month, they were dealt another blow when the Surf City Land Use Board vetoed a variance application that would allow the home to remain where it was built. In rejecting the application, the board acknowledged mistakes happen but noted it won’t be used to fix errors of what some hinted during testimony was negligent work.

The board takes into consideration only actual land use implications: does it improve the property or the borough’s master plan; what’s the overall good provided to the public. Land use boards do not take into account comments regarding a contractor’s work or abilities. During the hourlong proceeding, the contractor who built the Roses’ home was mentioned by name only once. It was not by the applicant, attorney or planner who represented the applicant.

Christine Nazzaro-Cofone, a professional planner retained by the applicant, testified the newly constructed home was built too close to the street on North 25th Street, providing more open space to an interior neighbor’s lot. There is no structure or overhang impeding the roadway, according to Nazzaro-Cofone's testimony. An oceanfront deck, she testified, is closer to the dunes than normal.

“The house didn’t grow in size. They built the house they were approved to build,” she said. “It wasn’t built in the precise location. It really just shifted.”

Nazzaro-Cofone also testified there is nothing irregular or off about the 50-by-200-foot property that would cause the home to be built in the wrong location.

“The error occurred somewhere between the surveyor and the builder,” she said, noting in some instances the home’s current location provides a better view for neighbors to the west of the property. “If it was in its conforming position, it would obscure views.”

Marc Policastro, the Roses’ attorney, said it is very unclear what transpired, and when, to get his clients to this point.

“There is zero benefit to the applicant,” Policastro said. “Absolutely no benefit. This is not an uncommon situation, especially considering its size.”

The attorney also noted the error was in no way intentional on the part of his clients.

“It went up quickly,” Howard Rose affirmed to the board, saying he and his wife had hoped to be in the home by Memorial Day weekend, but when he came to town for the final building inspection , he was told “we have a problem.”

Although not here to oversee the entire building process, which began in October 2017, Rose said he and his wife enjoyed watching their home go up. Never, he said, did he notice it wasn’t straight.

Alison Lang, who owns the home to the west of the Roses’ new home, said it was apparent to her that the house was built crooked, off its property line. She also testified her family was unable to enjoy their outdoor living space this summer because of bugs, which she said are the result of the change in air flow due to the Roses’ home not being where it should.

“It makes it feel like Tribeca and not LBI,” Lang said. “People come here to get away from New York City and to get some air.”

Another neighbor, Margaret Girardo, added mistakes are made by inches: “That this mistake was made in feet is egregious.”

Policastro asked the board to carry its decision until the Oct. 24 meeting to allow for follow-up testimony. He had previously stated during the proceeding he had no additional testimony. The board voted, denying the request to carry the application, before basing its unanimous decision on the merits of the case.

“It’s a simple situation of positive and negative criteria,” Kevin Quinlan, board attorney, said in beginning his summation of the application before the board. He reminded the board the applicants can appeal any decision the board makes.

Peter Hartney, board chairman, said while his heart goes out to the Roses for their current situation, approving the application would ultimately undermine the authority of the board.

— Gina G. Scala

(Photo by: Ryan Morrill)
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