A home on 71st Street in Sea Isle City features a swimming pool. (Photo courtesy of


Sea Isle City’s trend for bigger, fancier houses also means that homeowners are clamoring for a must-have amenity – swimming pools.

But how do you squeeze larger homes and pools into the typically smallish lots found in an upscale shore community where property is at a premium?

The city’s Planning Board is recommending that Sea Isle should approve a new ordinance that would reduce the minimum amount of space – the so-called “setback” – between a swimming pool and the back of the property line from the current requirement of 5 feet to just 2.5 feet.

Jon D. Batastini, the Planning Board’s solicitor, explained in a Sept. 30 letter to city officials that the 5-foot requirement is forcing homeowners to request zoning variances to build their pools as well as swimming pool patios.

“According to the Board, and through information and belief, it appears that Applicants for pools are struggling to meet the rear yard setback; thus, the Applicants are seeking variance relief from the Zoning and the Planning Board to encroach into the rear yard setback,” Batastini wrote.

He went on to say that the Planning Board believes that a 2.5-foot rear yard setback “would reduce the necessity” of homeowners needing a variance to build a pool or patio.

City Council reviewed Batastini’s letter at its Oct. 12 meeting and indicated that it would be willing to accept a rear yard setback of 3 feet for in-ground swimming pools – not 2.5 feet.

It would be up to Council to authorize a new ordinance establishing the new setback requirement.

Council President Jack Gibson emphasized in an interview Tuesday that the proposed 3-foot setback would apply only to in-ground pools. He noted that above-ground pools are higher up and can easily encroach on the privacy of adjacent homes.

“We’ve had some problems in the past with above-ground pools that have decks,” Gibson said. “You’re right next to your neighbor. That created a few privacy problems.”

Gibson pointed out that in-ground pools are “flush to the ground,” which eliminates the same privacy concerns created by higher, above-ground pools equipped with decks.

Swimming pools must be completely enclosed by a 6-foot-high fence under Sea Isle’s existing zoning regulations, creating more privacy for homeowners.

New homes under construction are a common sight in Sea Isle City as the housing market continues to boom.

Reflecting a boom in the real estate market fueled by low mortgage rates, a strong stock market and the shore being seen as a safe haven from the COVID-19 pandemic, Sea Isle has now become a million-dollar housing market.

The median sale price for homes in Sea Isle has jumped well above $1 million and shows no signs of significantly slowing down because demand is high and inventory is low, real estate agents say. Oceanfront, beach block and bayfront homes are now routinely breaking the $2 million mark.

In recent years, swimming pools have become a more popular accessory with upscale homes. Homeowners commonly come before the city’s zoning and planning boards seeking approval for pools – often requesting variances for the setback requirements. Not all variances are approved.

Hoping to solve the swimming pool predicament, Council has directed its solicitor to craft a new ordinance for the proposed 3-foot rear yard setback requirement.

The Planning Board is also requesting Council to approve a change in the city’s landscaping requirements for trees, shrubbery and plants that surround private property or are placed near the street in front of homes.

In short, the board wants to encourage homeowners to replace any trees or shrubbery that die off with “plant materials” that have already been approved by the city instead of using “alternative” types, according to Batastini’s letter.

“Clearly, residential and business owners have differing landscaping taste and themes. For example, a new outdoor business has planted palm trees. The Board encourages Applicants to use approved Plant Materials,” Batastini wrote.

Gibson said City Council agrees with the Planning Board about the landscaping requirements and plans to include them in the proposed ordinance.

“The idea is that they’ll replace it with plants that are more liable to live. We’re trying to keep the landscaping there,” Gibson said of the city’s desire to see homeowners replace dead trees or shrubbery with something suitable for the seashore environment.

In another matter, the Planning Board wants Council to also include a ban on bamboo in the proposed ordinance. As requested by the Planning Board, Gibson said the ordinance would prohibit the planting of bamboo anywhere in Sea Isle.

Batastini called bamboo “one of the world’s most invasive plants.”

“Once established, it is literally next to impossible to control. While this has not necessarily been the subject of development, the Board wanted to prevent its invasive nature within the City,” Batastini wrote.