CAPE MAY — City Council on Tuesday agreed to draft an ordinance to relax the lot-coverage requirement along Cape May Avenue while also setting up a timetable and notification requirements to consider similar changes in other residential districts in town.
The immediate issue is Cape May Avenue, where some residents have requested an increase in lot coverage from 30 percent to 40 percent. This would allow residents to cover more of their properties with improvements such as decks, patios, swimming pools, sheds, garages and other additions without seeking a variance.
City Manager Bruce MacLeod said the ordinance would be introduced at the July 17 meeting. It would then go to the Planning Board for a public hearing Aug. 14 before City Council holds its own public hearing and vote Aug. 21.
Mayor Ed Mahaney said the city would notify all residents on Cape May Avenue and within 200 feet of the street by certified mail. The Planning Board has already voted unanimously that the change conforms to the city’s Master Plan.
A more controversial proposal is to change the lot coverage from 30 percent to 40 percent in all the R-1 districts in the city, which make up a good portion of the east side of town. Some of these streets have more nonconfirming lots and do not have the large open-space island in the middle of the street that Cape May Avenue has.
The Planning Board rejected the proposal once in a 5-4 vote, but it agreed to have Board Engineer Craig Hurless study the effect it would have.
“Whenever you consider increasing lot coverage, there are always concerns,” Hurless told the council Tuesday.
Hurless, however, said increasing lot coverage does not create so-called “McMansions,” which are large houses on small lots. He said house size is controlled more by the floor area ratio, or FAR, as well as setbacks and other bulk requirements.
The study Hurless is working on has yet to be released. Deputy Mayor Jack Wichterman pushed to have ample notification when the issue comes up again. He wanted notification for residents fronting the three R-1 Districts and said previous notifications when lot coverage changes were proposed were lacking.
“It may have been legal, but it wasn’t moral,” Wichterman said.
Covering more of a lot, he argued, results in less water percolating into the ground, and sometimes it runs to a neighbor’s yard.
“It has to go someplace,” Wichterman said. “I agree if somebody owns a lot they should be able to use it, if it won’t impact somebody else adversely.”
Hurless said the city has stormwater requirements that would control this.
The council decided notifications for changes beyond Cape May Avenue would be made by regular mail and would go to all properties within any R-1 District and also those within 200 feet.
“A date for that meeting has not been established yet,” Mahaney said.
The minimum lot size in the R-1 is 9,375 square feet. The lot coverage law allows 30 percent of this to be covered with impervious surfaces such as a house, pavement, garages, swimming pools, sheds and other improvements. Since water does travel through paving stones and decks, half of these surfaces are considered impervious coverage.
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