MARGATE — Despite requests to delay the vote, the Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning of the Amherst Avenue marina district Thursday, Feb. 1.

Residents who live in the area asked the commission to postpone the vote until they could learn more about how the rezoning would affect them.

Ordinance 02-2018 amends the city’s zoning map from Decatur to Coolidge avenues to make the riparian zone on the water side of the bulkhead part of the Waterfront Special District.

Uses in the riparian district were restricted to marina and government use only. A master plan change in 2004 made many of the existing uses nonconforming.

The zoning change permits businesses, restaurants and residences in the WSD zone without the need for a use variance.

Amherst Avenue resident Ed Berger, who is president of the Margate Business Association, said there were “a lot of moving parts” to the rezoning and planned redevelopment of Integrity Marine and Capt. Andy’s Marina.

Berger said he and his neighbors at the Harbor Vista townhouses want to see the buildings improved, but not at their expense.

“We know we are going to take a hit on the height of those buildings,” he said. “I want to make sure they can develop their parcel to its potential, but not at any further expense to myself from a property value standpoint or for my neighbors’ property value standpoint.”

He said the commission is rezoning the Amherst Avenue commercial district to accommodate the developers and prevent them from having to obtain a use variance.

“This kind of accommodation unfortunately could be a harbinger of things to come,” he said.

Solicitor John Scott Abbott said the city cannot give the 14 Harbor Vista townhouse property owners who live on the south side of Amherst Avenue any guarantees that their views and property values would not be affected by the zoning change.

“Our recommendation is to give the homeowners at least another couple of weeks to evaluate the entire situation before you vote on this,” Berger said. “Our goal is not to block it or stop it. Our goal is to understand it.”

To develop over the water, property owners are required to obtain a waterfront development permit from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. For development on the landward side of the bulkhead, a Coastal Area Facility Review Act, or CAFRA, permit is needed, Abbott said.

Attorney Robert Baranowski Jr. of Hyland Levin, who represents the Harbor Vista Homeowners Association, said the Master Plan Re-examination Report did not request rezoning for the area, but recommended it remain the same.

“Despite that, the commissioners seem poised to move forward,” he said. “The residents deserve to know in further detail what type of impacts this zoning change could result in.”

He said residents are concerned about their views, parking, light, air, and open space.

“This vista the homeowners previously enjoyed would be significantly altered,” he said, asking for the commission to delay its vote.

Amherst Avenue resident Barbara Beck said she is concerned not only about her view, but the continued development of Amherst Avenue.

“Could the entire street be developed on the waterfront side?” she asked.

Ray Romino said parking spaces are at a premium, and restaurants could close.

“Are we cannibalizing other businesses for these developers?” he said. “I bought my house knowing I had those views and open spaces.”

Commissioner John Amodeo said the developers would still need to obtain approvals from the city Planning Board.

“It’s not like the whole waterfront is going to be developed with buildings and residences and restaurants,” Amodeo said.

Instead, the city wants to have the bulkheads, which are owned by the city, raised to prevent flooding, and a promenade built across the zone. Developers would be required to have bulkheads across their property replaced at their own expense.

Amodeo said the buildings that are there now are “horrendous,” and that improving them would create $10 million to $12 million in ratables.

Builder Jim Leeds, who wants to redevelop the old Integrity Marine site, said he intends to “slide the building 30 feet toward Longport,” raise it as much as 14 feet above grade level, and build an office with two residences above it.

Leeds has applied for a CAFRA permit but has not yet filed an application with the Planning Board, Zoning Officer Roger McLarnon said. 

Sean Gormley of Harbor Bay LLC intends to rebuild Capt. Andy’s in the same footprint over the water, with a 2,600-square-foot addition on the upland side. The project includes raising the elevation to 16 feet and building a 150-seat casual restaurant and bar and a small bait shop on the lower level, and a 4,000-square-foot office for his insurance business on the second level.

Gormley also plans to rebuild the marina with 22 slips for personal watercraft and 12 slips for other vessels, along with a fueling station. The tanks are already located underground at the front of the property.

Gormley's application asks the board to approve C variances for front and side setbacks, fence height and the number of parking spaces; the zoning change approved Thursday means a D use variance is no longer needed.

His application is on file and available for public inspection, and is scheduled to be heard at the Planning Board meeting 6:30 Feb. 22 at Historic City Hall.

Both buildings would have to be higher to comply with current flood elevation requirements, and there is no guarantee the state would prevent an applicant from expanding the footprint on the water side of the bulkhead, Abbott said.

The city owns the bulkhead, which is deteriorating, and most of the parking spaces, he said.

“You can’t develop on city-owned property unless the city sells it,” Abbott said.

Attorney Chris Baylinson said the Leeds development would cantilever over several parking spaces in the city right of way. In exchange for replacing the bulkhead, Leeds would like the city to convey ownership of seven parking spaces. He is willing to pay for the conveyance, Baylinson said.

Commissioner Maury Blumberg made a motion to pull the ordinance for two weeks, but it failed to get a second. The commissioners later voted unanimously to approve the ordinance.

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