By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The sprawling, two-story white house in the beach block of 42nd Street dates to 1900, according to real estate records.
It is certainly showing its age. Broken and missing windows, crumbling woodwork, faded paint and overgrown shrubbery suggest that its days are numbered.
A development group has filed an application with Sea Isle City’s zoning board to replace the old house at 18 42nd Street with a mixed-use project that would combine commercial space on the ground floor with three condominiums on the top three stories.
The zoning board is scheduled to consider the application by the Wild Colonial Boys LLC development group at its meeting on Monday night.
Two of the zoning board members, Bill McGinn and Louis Feola, will have to recuse themselves from voting because they are the developers of the proposed project.
McGinn said he originally considered saving the old house and transforming it into a combination commercial-residential project. However, that would have required elevating the house to comply with existing flood standards.
Ultimately, he decided that a brand new project would blend in better with the character of the surrounding neighborhood. He explained that the neighborhood has been transitioning to new multi-unit housing and commercial development in recent years to create “a little business district.”
“A new building there versus raising the existing building is a better alternative,” McGinn said in an interview Friday.
The old house is located in an area zoned for mixed-use projects. McGinn and Feola will be seeking a series of zoning variances from the board to develop their project.
Among other things, variances will be needed for building density, the number of stories and architectural design standards, according to documents filed with the zoning board.
“I know there’s going to be some opposition,” McGinn said of the possibility of some neighbors objecting to the zoning variances. “Hopefully, we can come to a meeting of the minds.”
McGinn said most of the variances stem from the property being an undersized lot. He also said some of the variances are the result of changes that he made to the project to address the concerns of the neighbors, including adding more parking spaces than what would normally be required.
“It’s not going to be a monstrous thing that will be bigger and taller and fatter and wider than the rest of the neighborhood,” he said.
McGinn, who is also a Sea Isle real estate agent, bought the old house for $425,000 in 2018 from Agnes Rocchia, according to online property records.
The big white house occupies the corner of 42nd Street and Pleasure Avenue close to the beach. Rocchia, who died in 2020, and her late husband, Ralph, rented out the house for many years before it was sold, McGinn said.
Inside the house are four residential units. McGinn said he played with the idea of converting the home into new commercial space on the first floor and residential units on top.
However, he would face the task and expense of elevating the 120-year-old structure to meet existing flood-protection requirements if he renovated it, he pointed out.
McGinn said he has not completely ruled out the possibility of renovating the old house for commercial and residential space if plans for his new mixed-use project don’t work out.
But the benefits of new construction to Sea Isle City and the surrounding neighborhood would far outweigh those from fixing up an old house, he said.
“Having a commercial spot there will be great,” he said.
If the zoning board grants approval for his proposed project, he plans to begin construction as soon as possible and would finish in early 2022.