The marshy, bayfront property on 81st Street will be preserved as open space.


As a final step in a three-year legal battle with the former owners of bayfront property, Sea Isle City will rezone the land to protect it from development.

The muddy property, tucked behind tall marsh reeds at the bay end of 81st Street, is unusual because half of it was zoned for housing construction, while the other half lies within Sea Isle’s wetlands conservation area.

Under Sea Isle’s zoning laws, areas that are designated for wetlands conservation are restricted to “recreational fishing and crabbing, boating, passive recreation and environmental study.” Home construction is not allowed in those areas.

A new ordinance introduced by City Council by a 4-0 vote on July 12 proposes to shift all of the property into a preservation zone that will prevent it from being developed. A public hearing and final vote on the ordinance are scheduled for the Aug. 9 Council meeting.

“Typically, we would move all of that property to the (preservation) zone,” City Solicitor Paul Baldini said.

Baldini explained that the rezoning is part of a settlement between the city and private property owners in a 2019 lawsuit in a dispute over the land. The settlement led to the city buying the property from the private owners.

The former owners, Shirley A. Kling and Terrance L. Crowley, had sued the city after they were denied zoning approval in 2019 to build a vacation home in the wetlands conservation zone.

Kling and Crowley, whose families had owned the property since 1957, had argued that their project “satisfied all criteria” for a zoning variance and would not have a negative impact on wetlands, flooding, threatened or endangered wildlife or other environmental concerns.

Tall marsh reeds at the bay end of 81st Street obscure the property.

During negotiations in the lawsuit, the city and adjoining landowners agreed to buy the property from Kling and Crowley for a total amount of $300,000. The city kicked in $250,000 and the neighbors contributed $50,000.

Baldini said that Kling and Crowley originally had sought a buyout of $875,000.

The neighbors got involved in the settlement because they opposed Kling and Crowley’s plan to build a home on the property. During a 2019 zoning board meeting, the neighbors expressed fear that the project would harm the environment and exacerbate flooding in the surrounding area.

Now that the city owns the property at the bay end of 81st Street, the decision was made to rezone all of it for preservation.

The ordinance introduced on July 12 also includes other areas around town that will be rezoned. The rezoning of those areas has been reviewed by the city’s Planning Board and was recommended in Sea Isle’s updated master plan, a broad blueprint for zoning and planning regulations in town.

One notable area that will be rezoned from commercial use to residential is an area of bayfront homes along 84th, 85th, 87th and 88th streets. The rezoning is consistent with the residential nature of those streets, according to the ordinance.

Council President Mary Tighe noted that she and Councilman J.B. Feeley reviewed all of the proposed zoning changes with Baldini. Tighe said they carefully looked at each area and “made the adjustments that needed to be made and were most logical.”