This blog refers to buildings that are the standard, side-by-side condo/townhouse on a standard lot of 50 ft. by 110 ft.
The ongoing parking and Floor Area Ratio (F.A.R.) issue being discussed by Sea Isle’s City Council, its residents and builders continues. The last amendments to Ordinance 1584 that passed this year limiting F.A.R. to .8% of the total lot size may change again.
In 2010, F.A.R. was eliminated. It was .7% but that did not include the grade level bonus room. The 2010 ordinance allowed homes to be built higher to raise the bonus rooms from off the grade level to above Base Flood Elevation (B.F.E). The building height limit was increased to 32 ft. above B.F.E. from 30 ft. Before the 2010 ordinance took effect, bonus rooms were on the grade level and being used as living space but not insurable. F.A.R. should never have been totally eliminated. The building footprint did not need to change and shouldn’t have. Raising the building height and, in essence adding another level for the bonus room, brought the F.A.R. to about .9%. However, some developers took advantage of the no limit to F.A.R. and were building duplexes whose F.A.R. was over .10% and higher. These are what I believe are the true “monster houses.” The homes that were built to the intended translation of the 2010 Ordinance were not bigger, per se, just higher. The intention of the 2010 amendments to Ordinance 1584 was to give Sea Isle City a better rating with F.E.M.A. and allow the much in demand bonus room to be legal and insurable.
It is important to understand that the increased building height to 32 ft. above B.F.E. has not been amended in the recent 2016 Ordinance 1584 which limited F.A.R. to .8%. The reason I doubt it will ever change is because it adheres to F.E.M.A. rules. There is a popular demand for this style home. By meeting the demand, overall property values are sustained and have increased over time. New construction is selling for higher prices now than it did before the bubble burst.
On Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 9:00 a.m., City Council convenes to address F.A.R. and a new Ordinance is forthcoming allowing F.A.R. to be changed from .8%. I heard it may be .85% and I’ve also heard .87%. Everybody is trying to figure out a way to create more parking by again changing F.A.R. I’m afraid the cow has left the barn (and moved into a bigger home). There are not many standard lots left prime for redevelopment to make a difference. What City Council and all concerned may need to do is to stop wasting time trying to please those that view progress made in Sea Isle City as negative. Instead it may be more useful to attack the real issue which is lack of parking and too many cars. Here are a couple of ideas. More parking areas could be provided for excess cars to park long term and only allow 1-3 cars per residence, depending on off street parking spots that residence has. Maybe the cars can be parked at a remote location and Golf carts implemented that don’t take up much space. Maybe they can be rented for a minimal fee at the remote parking locations. It may need to become part of the rental lease that only 1-3 cars are allowed per residence and make it mandatory that guests or additional renters will need to carpool or be picked up at a remote location, especially on weekends. The Jitney can be made available during the day. Maybe a bike path on the dunes would help. Lastly, let’s face it. We are a resort town and for about 8 weeks, the population swells. I have lived in the center of town for 25 years so I have an idea of what it is like. I’ve used a bike to get around a lot.
I believe that the F.A.R. should be capped at .9% to meet the popular demand (for homes with 5 bedrooms plus a family room/6th bedroom) and keep flood insurance rates down. Many owners have children and grandchildren they want to have room for which is within the tradition of Sea Isle City being a family town. If you support this and agree, please come to the City Council meeting on Saturday, May 21, 2016. I hope to see you there.