By Dan Moffett
Manalapan resident Hank Siemon came to the Town Commission and asked for an exception to building codes so that he can put an unusually long dock behind the home he intends to build on the vacant Intracoastal lot he owns.
Because Siemon is also a sitting town commissioner, and because some of his neighbors objected, the request came with its share of complications before the commission approved it.
Siemon recused himself and left the dais during 90 minutes of discussion at the Jan. 28 commission meeting.
His engineer, William Stoddard, explained Siemon’s problem: He owns a 40-foot boat and the channel along the east side of Point Manalapan on Lands End Road isn’t deep enough unless his dock extends well beyond the code’s maximum limit of 55 feet.
In order to safely navigate his vessel in and out, Siemon needs a dock to extend out 85 feet, Stoddard said. Not getting the variance to build out an extra 30 feet would deny Siemon the use of the boat, Stoddard said, creating an unfair hardship — a criterion for code exceptions — that the town should not allow.
Siemon’s next-door neighbors, Barry and Sigrun Haase, oppose the variance. Their attorney, Jason Mankoff, called Siemon’s request “a self-created hardship.”
Mankoff’s remedy? Buy a smaller boat.
“Owning a big boat is not justification for a variance,” he said. “All the other owners have to deal with the same depth. It’s not a hardship. It’s an inconvenience.”
Mankoff said Siemon was “trying to shift any blockage of his view” to the Haases.
Another neighbor, former Mayor Basil Diamond, also opposed the variance. Diamond said the limit was set at 55 feet to keep navigation lanes open in the shallow channel, and said Siemon had “the wrong boat” for the property.
“If we give variances to everybody,” Diamond said, “then you don’t have a code.”
Further complicating the dispute are plans to install a new water main line through an easement across Siemon’s lot at 1660 Lands End Road.
Commissioner Clark Appleby sided with Siemon. Appleby said boaters have had to adjust to “high tides and low tides that have gotten more dramatic” in recent years and the request for a longer dock is reasonable.
“Having a 30-foot extension is not going to have a huge impact on either neighbor’s view, north and south,” he said.
Mayor Keith Waters said the code allows 55-foot docks or docks that extend into 3 feet of water. For Siemon to get his boat into 3 feet, the dock has to go out 85 feet, Waters said.
“If a resident cannot reach 3 feet of water,” Waters said, “that’s the milestone by which a variance can be requested.”
Commissioners decided that the proposed dock would not obstruct navigation channels. They voted unanimously to grant Siemon the variance.
“I think it’s important everybody understands this,” Waters said after the vote. “This body does not make decisions based on friendships. It makes decisions on what this town is supposed to be doing and what we’re supposed to be doing representing this town.”