For Some in Lacey, An Easier Way to Elevate
Lacey's Zoning Board will recommend the township's Committee allow residents to raise their homes without zoning approval.
The idea is to expedite the recovery process, but a recommendation being made by the Lacey Township Zoning Board to allow residents to elevate their homes without zoning approval is wrought with exceptions and catches.
During its workshop Monday night, the board agreed it would recommend to township Committee that it allow residents on conforming lots to elevate their preexisting homes to as high as 38 feet. The new height is three feet higher than the township’s current height allowance, and is designed to meet new elevations dictated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Advisory Base Flood Elevation, or ABFE, maps.
Unfortunately, most residents will still have to appear before the zoning board, Chairman Tim McDonald said, a necessary side effect to ensure the board stays within the limits of its own laws.
The new ordinance, if adopted at some point by township Committee, would apply to residents in FEMA’s new A and V Zones, which are prone to significant flood damage during large storms, like Sandy. It would not, however, apply to new construction, properties on non-conforming lots, or homes that require setback variances.
According to Nicole Casale, who works in Lacey’s zoning office, those exceptions account for most property owners affected by Sandy.
McDonald said the board’s recommendation was made to help cut through the regulations currently holding up reconstruction. He admitted, however, that the terms of the new ordinance, if passed, do pose some limitations. It is not an empty gesture, he promised, saying it’s the best the board can do with the tools at their disposal.
“It’s never going to be perfect,” he said. “I’m sure the township will make adjustments (to the ordinance) as it goes forward as it’s needed.”
Most of the homes along the township’s waterways are older properties built on smaller lots. Because the properties were built on small lots they’re often in violation of the township’s zoning ordinances. It wasn’t a problem until Sandy hit the New Jersey shore in late October and caused significant damage to many coastal communities.
Now, all of the property owners who need to elevate their homes or build over again face the multiple levels of regulation McDonald said the board was hoping to allow them to avoid.
Though the ordinance change still needs Committee approval before becoming effective, an application presented to the board during its regular meeting Monday showed its potential limitations.
Wayne Hanrahan is hoping to raise his home to meet FEMA’s new flood elevations and avoid the extreme flood insurance costs anticipated when the current advisory maps become official maps sometime as early as 2014. The problem with Hanrahan’s Laurel Boulevard home is that it’s about 50 years old, built on a small plot of land prior to the township’s current setback ordinances. Even if the new ordinance were approved, Hanrahan would still require variances for non-conforming sideyard setbacks.
Hanrahan was granted preliminary approval, but will have to come back to another meeting next month to see it become official.
“I just want to raise my house; get it to flood elevation and get back in,” he told the board.
McDonald said the ordinance change is the best the board can offer right now. He said he and the rest of the zoning board are interested in helping facilitate recovery for those who need to rebuild. Limited as its new proposed ordinance change might be, McDonald said there needs to be an emphasis on rebuilding smarter moving forward.
McDonald said he anticipates the number of applications to rise once FEMA introduces its preliminary flood maps – the preliminary flood maps follow the advisory flood maps – this August. Each application will be address on a case-by-case basis, though he said the board’s objective is to help, not delay the recovery process.
“How do we help the problem? That’s to get them through the process,” he said.