By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City finds itself in a swimming pool predicament.
More and more homeowners are clamoring for their own pools, but are finding it difficult to squeeze them in on the typically smallish lots in a beach community where property is at a premium.
City Council introduced an ordinance in May to change the zoning regulations for pools to make it easier to build them in Sea Isle. However, the measure has been withdrawn until the fall for more discussion on just how to solve the swimming pool dilemma.
“Pools are definitely a trend in town,” City Solicitor Paul Baldini said in an interview. “We’re seeing a lot more pools now coming into town, in comparison to five years ago, when we saw none.”
The trend for more pools in Sea Isle mirrors the demand for bigger, fancier vacation homes. Pools have often become a must-have amenity for multimillion-dollar houses.
In some cases, it’s not just one swimming pool on someone’s property. Baldini noted that some duplex owners want to build two separate pools on their property, creating what he called “another interesting dynamic.”
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.
Jon D. Batastini, the Planning Board’s solicitor, wrote in a letter last September to city officials that the existing 5-foot setback 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.
Hoping to find a compromise, the Planning Board urged Council to reduce the rear yard setback for in-ground swimming pools from 5 feet to just 2.5 feet. Council responded with a proposed ordinance to change the setback to 3 feet.
Under the proposal, no in-ground swimming pool may be built closer than 3 feet to the side yard or rear yard property line.
Council, though, is keeping the existing 5-foot setback requirement for above-ground swimming pools. The governing body noted that above-ground pools are higher up and can easily encroach on the privacy of adjacent homes.
Council was expected to give the proposed ordinance for a 3-foot setback for in-ground pools final approval at its meeting on June 14. However, the measure was withdrawn for further discussions with the Planning Board.
Baldini said the Planning Board is proposing another change that would effectively create more space for building pools.
At first glance, it appears the board wants to shrink the distance that is required between someone’s home and a pool from the existing 10-foot setback to 7 feet, he said.
However, Baldini added that he’s not quite sure whether the Planning Board is looking to expand the area for building the pool or wants to create more room between the pool and the rear yard property line.
Baldini said whatever is decided, the zoning requirements for pools can’t be in conflict with Sea Isle’s construction codes for fire safety.
“If you’re going to have a bigger pool, then let’s come up with something that is a fair compromise,” he said.
In the meantime, the existing zoning requirements for pools will remain in place, pending City Council’s decision to revisit the issue in the fall.