By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
It is only 2 feet, but the impact is huge.
The owner of a bayfront duplex that will be knocked down to make room for a new single-family home impressed the members of the Sea Isle City Zoning Board by revising his project by 2 feet to address the concerns of his neighbors.
One board member, Jeffery April, called it a “magnanimous act.”
After a 90-minute hearing Monday night, the board approved plans by the owner, Richard Green, to demolish the existing duplex at 230 82nd Street in the Townsends Inlet section and replace it with a single-family home overlooking the bay.
In doing so, the board approved zoning variances for front, rear and side yard setbacks to allow Green to build on the undersized and irregularly shaped lot.
What also makes the property unusual is an easement on Green’s land that serves as a driveway for adjacent homeowners. The easement dates back about 60 years, long before Green’s ownership of the property. Green is not allowed to build on the easement and must keep it open as a driveway for his neighbors.
However, some of the adjacent homeowners objected to Green’s plan to demolish the duplex and build a new house, fearing it would make it more difficult for them to use the driveway.
“I just don’t want to get jammed in,” John Jones, one of the homeowners, told the zoning board during a hearing conducted by teleconference.
“Our concern has always been access to the property,” said Thomas O’Dowd, another neighbor.
But Green revised his original plans for the single-family home to move it away from the easement by an additional 2 feet, creating more room for his neighbors to use the driveway.
“I think that was a nice concession by the owner there,” zoning board member Bill McGinn said of Green. “With the changes, it has made it better than the original plan.”
Don Wilkinson, Green’s attorney, told the zoning board that Green wanted to work with the neighbors to reach a compromise to address their concerns about the driveway.
“We’re not trying to start a war,” Wilkinson said. “We’re trying to be reasonable and accommodating.”
In testimony to the board, Green said he spoke to three of his neighbors about moving his new house a few feet away from the easement to give them more room to use the driveway. However, they did not agree to his proposal, he said.
At least one zoning board member, though, indicated he thought Green went to great lengths to compromise with the neighbors.
“I think it’s a magnanimous act on your client’s behalf to move the 2 feet,” April said to Wilkinson during the hearing.
The hearing culminated in a 4-0 vote in favor of Green’s project. The board originally considered the project in March, but carried it over to Monday’s meeting to give Green more time to speak to his neighbors.
Green and his wife, Colette, bought the duplex on 82nd Street in 2017. Real estate records show the two-story structure dates back about 70 years.
During testimony at the March meeting, Green told the zoning board that the duplex is an eyesore and that he and his wife believe it is best to knock it down rather than renovate it, considering its deteriorated condition.
“The home is about 70 years old and is extremely run-down inside and out and would need many, many repairs,” he said then. “This would be for my wife, daughter and hopefully someday soon, her family as a summer home.”
He added that it would be “extremely costly” to renovate.
“Truthfully, it looks like an eyesore,” he said.
The duplex was built before the creation of Sea Isle’s modern construction regulations. Unlike the existing duplex, the new single-family home will comply with Sea Isle’s flood-protection standards and construction codes, Wilkinson said.