ATLANTIC CITY — After decades of beach block housing being restricted to multi-family units, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is looking to change course in the city.
The CRDA board awarded a variance last week to allow a property owner to convert 138 S. Bellevue Ave. from a triplex to a single-family house and is in the midst of changing zoning regulations in the Tourism District to allow single-family homes on many blocks.
State law has regulated zoning in the Tourism District since 2012, and the CRDA oversees it.
“If you look at other beach towns, on the beach block single-family homes are not just not prohibited, but preferred,” said CRDA Executive Director Matt Doherty at the meeting. “It helps grow the community more with owner-occupied housing as opposed to rentals.”
CRDA Director of Planning and Development Lance Landgraf said Atlantic City changed the zoning to multi-family of three units or more back in 1978, to encourage beach block development by casinos and other high value developers.
When the CRDA took over the tourism district it kept Atlantic City’s zoning, he said.
Changing those regulations will help Atlantic City attract more vacation homeowners, Landgraf said.
Landgraf said the change in regulations will take some time. A municipality can change an ordinance in about a month, by holding two meetings and a public hearing, then voting on it. But state law changes take much longer.
He estimated the zoning will be changed sometime in the first quarter of 2020.
The tourism district encompasses all beach blocks in the city above Lincoln Avenue in Chelsea, Landgraf said. He said the area from Florida Avenue to Belmont will definitely see a zoning change, while other parts of the city are less likely to see one.
“We are looking at every option possible to encourage redevelopment with single family, multi-family or commercial,” Landgraf said.
But in the Southeast Inlet, where zoning changed last year to no longer permit casinos, it’s likely to remain multi-family, he said.
Vacant land in the Inlet from Atlantic Avenue to the beach and Ocean Resort to the Inlet would be best used for townhouses and other multi-family development, according to a report by the Urban Land Institute.
The beach block triplex on South Bellevue Avenue, between South Florida and South Texas, was originally built as a single-family home in about the 1920s and converted to multi-family later, Landgraf said.
But the street is not suited to multi-family housing, Landgraf said.
“Multi-family density is causing problems in the neighborhood. There’s no parking and many units in a small space,” Landgraf said.
The homeowner who got his variance, Sean Reardon, said he appreciated the comments, but it took a year and a half to two years for him to succeed in getting permission to convert his building.
“I understand state (rules) but this is something that’s been underway for a while,” Reardon said. “The initial discussions started 1.5 to 2 years ago. We could do better ... to move forward quicker.”
Reardon, who is running for City Council as a Republican in the 4th Ward, said he hopes to start the rehab process immediately on the home he will eventually live in.
The process he went through involved hiring architects, engineers and others, and would be cost prohibitive for most people. He estimated he spent almost $10,000 on experts and other required paperwork.
“It’s counterproductive to getting this all fixed,” Reardon said of improving the neighborhood.