How Avalon is Dealing with Bulkheads

04/25/2014 AVALON – Bulkhead height for bayfront property was the topic of debate for Borough Council at its April 23 meeting. Council declined to advance a proposal by the Planning-Zoning Board that would have raised the minimum height of new bulkhead construction to eight feet. The proposal would have increased the level by more than 20 inches, as the existing code requires bulkheads be built to 6.2 feet.

Council member John McCorristin, who expressed concerns over what he called “unintended consequences,” met the proposal with resistance. McCorristin urged caution while considering the ordinance saying that it could affect fence and retaining wall heights, floating docks, and possibly aggravate flooding conditions in certain areas. “We’re talking about keeping water from coming in; we also need to consider getting the water out.”

Bayfront resident Martha Wright echoed McCorristin’s concerns during the public comment period, saying, “The water will have nowhere to go.”

The proposal would apply to new bulkhead construction. Existing bulkheads will have to comply when they are replaced.

Council Vice President Charles Covington noted, “It will take decades for this to create uniformity in height.” Following up on McCorristin’s drainage concerns, Covington asked, “Will this have an impact on the ratable base, on property values? I don’t want to give the impression that raising the bulkhead height will solve your flooding issue, only raising your home to base flood elevation level will do that.”

Borough Engineer Thomas Thornton proposed raising the bulkhead height to seven feet to mitigate some of the potential issues. The compromise proposal gained support among council members as a less dramatic change to the building code. Council voted 4-1 to disapprove the eight-foot proposal. Council President David Ellenberg was the sole vote in favor of the eight-foot proposal, citing the Planning Zoning Board’s recommendation as the reason for his vote. A proposed ordinance will be drafted reflecting the seven-foot requirement.

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