By Donald Wittkowski
A proposed zoning ordinance that would place size limits on newly constructed single-family homes and duplexes in Sea Isle City was endorsed Monday night by the Planning Board and now goes before City Council on Tuesday for final consideration.
By a 10-0 vote, the Planning Board found that the ordinance, which governs the footprint of a home, known as the floor-area ratio, is “not inconsistent” with the city’s master plan.
The next test comes when City Council holds a public hearing and final vote on the measure at its 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday.
The debate over the floor-area ratio, commonly called FAR, has been a hot topic for more than a year and has divided the community. Some believe Sea Isle is being overwhelmed by huge “monster homes,” while others have cautioned that strict building regulations could stifle the local economy.
The controversy continued Monday night during public comments made to the Planning Board members.
Kevin Lavan, a resident of Landis Avenue, argued that the proposed size limits in the ordinance don’t go far enough and will simply make the housing market more crowded.
“I think it’s going to get more dense,” Lavan said.
Joe Meier, who lives on 92nd Street, said the ordinance will profoundly impact the housing market for the next five to 20 years.
Meier told the Planning Board that the ordinance should be stricter and is inconsistent “with what this town should look like.”
However, members of the business community said the measure will allow the housing market to grow and should also stimulate economic development throughout town.
“This city is thriving. It’s doing great. It’s awesome,” said Joe Romano, whose family owns Sea Isle Ice Co.
Michael Monichetti, owner of Mike’s Seafood Restaurant, predicted that property values would fall if the ordinance was made stricter. He said homeowners wouldn’t be able to recoup their investments if they faced tougher building requirements.
The proposed ordinance modifies the FAR that was orginally approved by City Council last January. At that time, Council adopted a FAR of 0.8 for newly constructed single-family homes and duplexes.
The new proposal keeps the FAR at 0.8 for single-family homes and duplexes that would have three parking spaces per unit. However, the FAR would be increased to 0.85 for single-family homes and duplexes that would have four parking spaces per unit.
Andy Previti, the Planning Board’s engineer, explained that the slighter higher FAR for homes with four parking spaces per unit would add just 250 square feet to the size of a duplex.
The FAR is the amount of habitable floor space in a home divided by the lot size. The higher the FAR, the bigger the home can be.
At one time, Sea Isle had a FAR of 0.7. Those standards were abolished in 2010, leaving the city with no size restrictions at all until City Council approved the FAR of 0.8 last January. The proposed ordinance would tweak the size requirements even further with the FAR of 0.8 or 0.85 based on the number of parking spaces.
City surveys conducted in the past revealed that the biggest concern among local residents was the growing size of Sea Isle’s homes, the Planning Board said.
Planning Board Chairwoman Patricia Urbaczewski noted that the revised ordinance still ensures there will be size limits for the construction of new homes.
“It does appear they are trying to make modifications to control the growth,” Urbaczewski said.
Planning Board Vice Chairman Edward Sgalio, who has been on the board for 24 years, said the proposed ordinance is an attempt to “level the playing field” by having uniform FARs for home construction.
“It clears the page and hopefully levels the playing field, because the playing field has not been leveled in a long, long time,” Sgalio said.