By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The house overlooks the back bays and marshlands, but it is definitely not one of Sea Isle City’s tony, multimillion-dollar waterfront homes.
Not much more than a shack, really, the dilapidated tiny house at 204 Sounds Avenue sits at the end of a dirt road off Second Street in a part of Sea Isle that looks more rural than shore-like.
Sea Isle fought for more than 10 years to have the crumbling structure torn down, but the city finally reached a settlement that will result in a single-family home being built on the property.
“We see it as a huge success from the city’s perspective,” City Solicitor Paul Baldini said in an interview.
Over the weekend, a large excavator was parked next to the old house, suggesting that either demolition or construction work is about to begin.
Baldini characterized it as a “win-win” for both sides because the property will remain a tax ratable for the city and the owners will be able to make their home in Sea Isle.
Real estate records show that the old house is owned by Brian and Jennifer Larsen. Brian Larsen did not return calls seeking comment on Monday and Tuesday.
The couple is part of Sea Isle’s well-known Larsen family of the Larsen’s Marina business.
Baldini wasn’t sure whether the old house would be entirely rebuilt or remodeled by the Larsens. He thought that a part of it might be saved and possibly incorporated in the construction of the new home.
“When they’re all done, there will be a single-family home with a young couple living there,” he said.
Reminiscent of an old-fashioned seashore cottage, the house is just 792 square feet and sits on a small lot. It was originally built in 1932. Real estate records show it was sold in 2015 for $175,000.
Baldini said the couple got a bargain on bayside property and will have “gorgeous views” once their new home is completed. Plans call for the home to be built on the upland part of the property.
At first glance, it seems remarkable that the old house is even still standing. Perched on wood pilings, the structure sits directly on top of the marshlands along Sounds Avenue, where Second Street comes to a dead end near Sea Isle’s northern border with Strathmere.
Some windows are boarded up while others are missing. Siding has been torn off on parts of the house. The sagging porch appears to have nearly collapsed under the weight of old wood and other debris that is piled next to the front door.
The city’s concerns over the deteriorated property began in 2008 with its elderly former owner, Evelyn McQuade. The battle with McQuade escalated into a lawsuit in 2011. After McQuade died, the city gave her estate more time to sell the property instead of moving ahead to have the house demolished, Baldini explained.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates construction at the shore, will allow a new home to be constructed on the bayview property because a house was previously built on the site.
“It’s a DEP regulation. As long as there’s an existing home, you can rebuild,” Baldini said.
Last year, City Council approved a resolution for a “statement of consent” with the DEP to allow the Larsens to rebuild the property.
The northern tip of Sea Isle where the new house is planned has public water service, but no sewer lines. However, Baldini said the Larsens intend to include a 2,000-gallon sewerage holding tank for the property so they can go ahead and build the home.