Margate owners pushed back on third-story decks and seven-bedroom plans, but building continues on shore


MARGATE, NJ — The topic of Margate’s planning board meeting in July was, again, third story decks.

Like so many other coastal towns, Margate is awash with new construction, much of which replaces old homes flooded during Sandy, or simply homes from another simpler era. The new homes are responding to what appears to be a rampant demand for six and seven bedrooms and bathrooms, backyard pools and, of course, those decks.

READ MORE: Instead of tearing down old Shore homes, this company is moving them up the road

Especially those third floor decks. New homes are generally taller than those they replaced, built with a base level of up to 14 feet above sea level for the garage or crawl space, before the 30 feet of housing began, due to FEMA rules.

As a result, these decks, in some cases, now have a view of their neighbors of the ocean on one side and the bay on the other, even from the middle of the island. Neighbors have expressed concerns about privacy, not to mention how sound travels from those bridges.

But oh the sunsets. Previously, third-story decks were only allowed on ocean and waterfront streets because no one else had to worry about the view. Now everyone wants that view.

And more.

“These houses, some have seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms,” said Richard Patterson, chairman of the Margate Planning Board. “It’s crazy, but I can’t tell them how many bedrooms to put in their house. It looks like a status symbol. A status symbol that brings a lot of extra cars to the island.

“They’re paying cash for a $5 million house,” Patterson said, citing an example. “They’re down maybe five weekends a year.”

Ten years after Sandy, the Jersey Shore is rebuilt bigger, taller and much more expensive. A three-story house at 19 S. Knight Ave. in Margate rises above its neighbours. The builders secured gaps to reduce front yard setback and a third-story deck to build the home.

Estate agents urged potential buyers to ‘make new’ in a sign. It is listed at $2.79 million. Federal flood insurance caps payments at $250,000, though homeowners can purchase additional coverage.

There’s always drama in Margate, whether it’s unwanted sand dunes or beach parking. But lately, attention has focused on the construction epidemic that has hit coastal cities and what to do about it.

The Buzz down the beach blog captured this debate in some incisive audio excerpts from the July board meeting, the place where the things that will really bother people tend to be decided.

At a recent meeting, Patterson vividly assured another council member that people who wanted third-floor aft decks were interested in the sunset, to not see [planning board member] naked.

Suffice it to say, there are a lot of requests for third-floor decks in Margate, about a dozen since January alone.

In July, the planning board recommended changing the zoning code to allow third-floor decks throughout Margate, without the need for waivers, but only at the front. They are currently only permitted on the beach and waterfront blocks.

The board drew the line to the third floor aft decks, which would still require a gap.

Patterson argued for allowing rear patios on the third floor because if you’re on the south side of the street and want to see the sunset, you’ll need the patio at the back of the house.

“You can already see your second story neighbor, with the houses 14 feet from the first story,” he said. “Your neighbor doesn’t have much privacy already.”

At the July meeting, real estate agent Brian Hiltner predicted a flurry of demand coming for third-story back decks now that new homes on the south side of the street are tall enough to get that sunset view. sun at the back towards the bay.

Hiltner said that because the board had recently approved a request for a third-story rear patio on Thurlow Avenue — from which the elevated home now offers great ocean and bay views — his clients feel that It’s normal to come and ask for one for their properties.

“Two years ago it was always known, don’t come, you don’t receive [the variance]Hiltner told the board. “It was common knowledge, don’t even go in. Now we see that over the last few years you’ve granted third floor decks.”

As for the question of the privacy of neighbors below those bridges, Hiltner said the privacy ship has sailed.

“Because the houses are built so high, you’re still looking at your neighbor’s house,” he said. “I have three clients who come here to pick them up. I would like to have one myself.

In addition to requests for third floors and decks, everyone wants a backyard pool, which has prompted complaints from Atlantic City Electric because almost everyone is too close to utility poles and the pools interfere with the ‘access.

And zoned air conditioning. Some of those bridges around town are actually built to house third-floor air-conditioning units, noted Roger McLarnon, Margate’s zoning and planning officer.

“They want a zone for each floor,” McLarnon said. “They all want generators now. Swimming pools are a whole different issue. We get criticism from the power company. They threaten to move all the poles in the street.

Walking around town, it’s easy to find new construction towering over older homes in the midsection of Margate, a place where families lived year-round in modest one- and two-storey houses sending their children to school. school and working as teachers, lifeguards and police officers.

The year-round community seemed to be thriving, so much so that a few years ago Margate considered completely limiting third floors in this section to preserve its (relative) accessibility. The city even built another school, which became useless.

“Before the pandemic, we were looking for a part of town that didn’t have a third floor, which would make it more family-friendly, because the price craze hadn’t reached that area,” Patterson said.

He has now.

Many of these families are selling their homes. “Every person who has owned a property here for 20, 30, 40 years has hit the lottery in terms of property value,” says McLarnon. “It’s hard to turn down $1 million.”

Patterson, who has lived all of his 72 years in Margate, until recently in a house on Lancaster Avenue which was demolished after Sandy, does not want front yard fencing, in a bid to keep the town at least a much like it always has been.

Patterson also wants to ban third floors entirely in lots under 40 feet wide. He calls the tall, skinny homes built on these undersized lots “lighthouses.”

“Do I wish there weren’t so many big houses?” said Patterson. “Of course. But I can’t put my wishes above the rules. People say, why are you allowing these McMansions? Why are you allowing them to tear down these beautiful old houses?”


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