By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Swimming pools have become a must-have amenity for upscale homes in Sea Isle City.
However, homeowners face the challenge of somehow finding enough space to squeeze their pools into the typically smallish lots found in a beach community where property is at a premium.
Hoping to solve the swimming pool predicament, City Council introduced an ordinance Saturday to reduce the minimum amount of space – the so-called “setback” – between a swimming pool and the property line from the current requirement of 5 feet to 3 feet.
Under the proposal, no swimming pool may be built closer than 3 feet to the side yard or rear yard property line.
The new ordinance follows a request last fall from Sea Isle’s Planning Board for Council to reduce the setback for in-ground swimming pools from 5 feet to just 2.5 feet.
Council President Jack Gibson said he and other members of the governing body felt that 2.5 feet is “getting pretty close” to the property line, so they have decided on a 3-foot setback instead.
Council, though, is keeping the existing 5-foot setback requirement for above-ground swimming pools. Gibson noted that above-ground pools are higher up and can easily encroach on the privacy of adjacent homes.
Under Sea Isle’s existing zoning regulations, swimming pools must be completely enclosed by a 6-foot-high fence, creating more privacy for homeowners.
Council introduced the swimming pool ordinance by a 5-0 vote during a special Saturday meeting that was part of Sea Isle’s annual Community Day celebration. A public hearing and final vote on the ordinance are scheduled for the June 14 Council meeting.
In recent years, swimming pools have become a more popular accessory with high-end 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.
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.
Gibson explained that the proposed 3-foot setback requirement will help homeowners to build their pools without having to go through the process of seeking a variance from the planning or zoning boards.
“Swimming pools are very popular when there’s sufficient room for them,” Gibson said in an interview after the Council meeting.
The trend for more swimming pools in Sea Isle mirrors the demand for bigger, fancier homes.
Reflecting a boom in the real estate market fueled in large part by 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.
Quite often, homeowners are seeking approvals from the planning and zoning boards to add swimming pools to their upscale property.