By Tim O’Meilia
How big should a Manalapan beach house be?
Until now, the answer has been: not big enough to live in, sleep in, cook in or rent out.
Certainly not big enough to be seen from State Road A1A, so lush landscaping is a must.
By town law, just big enough to have a pair of changing rooms and a small common area: 750 square feet.
But Manalapan town commissioners voted Aug. 23 to ask the zoning commission to consider whether to allow larger cabanas, perhaps setting a formula based on the size of the oceanfront property.
While the question of whether beach house size matters applies to only 30 properties along the ocean south of Chillingworth Curve, the town has wrestled with the issue several times over the years.
“I’m asking that you make a decision based on the size of the lot,” south end resident George Vlassis said to the commission. Vlassis wants to expand his 500-square-foot beach house to more than the allowed 750 square feet.
Although concerned about landscaping and intruding on the view of neighbors, Commissioner Donald Brennan said, a small cabana “is not a usable structure given the lifestyle of the town.”
The size limits were designed to prevent the beach houses from being used as residences and from obstructing the beach view of neighbors. A few are larger than allowed because they were built before the regulations were adopted.
“I don’t have an interest in putting in a bedroom but I’d like to have a pizza and be able to sit down and watch a ball game,” said Brennan. “You can build a nice place that’s not intrusive.”
By allowing larger beach structures, said Commissioner Robert Evans, “we have the possibility of essentially building new residences.”
He feared heirs may want to split the property into two lots later.
Ken Kaleel, representing builder Stewart Satter, said multimillion-dollar waterfront properties should not be unfairly limited.
Satter owns four properties along the barrier island.
“So what if the grandkids want to live in the house during the winter? That’s why you own the property,” he said.
Commissioner Louis DeStefano, who also lives south of the curve, opposed sending the issue to the zoning board.
He also suggested that only commissioners who live on the ocean vote on the question.
“I don’t think people on the point understand the issue,” he said, referring to Point Manalapan residents. Commissioners rejected his idea.
“We want our landowners to be able to do what they want with their land, but we also want to protect the neighbors,” Evans said.
While the zoning commission deals with the issue, commissioners loosened the requirement that cabanas be 30 feet by 25 feet, allowing a 37.5-foot north-south length but keeping the total area at 750 square feet.
In other business in August, commissioners:
• Approved an ordinance change to allow dock lighting five feet above the docks instead of four, but reducing the maximum intensity of the light from 850 lumens to 480 lumens.
• Asked Town Manager Linda Stumpf for a proposal to reduce the town’s reserves from 59 percent of the annual budget to 40 or 50 percent and use that money to reduce the tax rate. The town has about $2 million in reserves. Although commissioners have set a maximum tax rate of $2.80 per $1,000 of taxable property value, the manager has suggested reducing the rate to $2.789. Public hearings on the budget are set for 5:01 p.m. Sept. 15 and 26.
• Asked Stumpf for a proposal on how to distribute the proposed 2 percent employee salary increases based on merit rather than longevity.