By Dan Moffett
Manalapan commissioners are moving forward with a new ordinance that would allow docks to be built on vacant properties before home construction begins.
Mayor Keith Waters said during the commission’s Feb. 25 meeting that the ordinance likely would apply to five existing empty lots in the town with docks and to new construction.
The new rule would eliminate a stipulation in the town’s code that treats docks solely as accessories to existing homes.
The change is important for the town to begin work on a $2.5 million plan to increase water services to oceanfront residents.
One of the five lots belongs to Commissioner Hank Siemon. The town wants to use a 20-foot easement across Siemon’s vacant property at 1660 Lands End Road on Point Manalapan to install new water mains to eastern households.
Waters said the town currently has two aging 8-inch pipes that carry all the water to the ocean side. With the easement on Siemon’s lot, two 10-inch supply lines could be added.
“It’s not a luxury,” Waters said. “It’s a requirement.”
The mayor said the cost of the project has more than doubled over the last decade as the town grappled with easement access and other obstacles. Waters said the project is essential and “good for all of Manalapan.”
But before engineers can begin mapping the pipelines, work on Siemon’s dock has to be completed to avoid potential construction mishaps.
In January, the commission unanimously allowed Siemon a variance to build his dock out to 85 feet, an extra 30 feet beyond the existing code limit of 55 feet. Siemon told the commission he needed the extra length because the channel on the east side of the Point was too shallow to accommodate his 40-foot boat.
Waters said that building the dock straight out instead of installing a T-shaped structure or a lift would allow Siemon’s neighbors to keep more of their waterfront views.
“The owner has tried to find a way to minimize that dock,” the mayor said, commending Siemon for trying to work with his neighbors.
But not all the neighbors are satisfied. Barry and Sigrun Haase, who live next door, told the commission through their attorney, Jason Mankoff, that they oppose the variance.
And two former mayors, Basil Diamond and David Cheifetz, complained about the code exception during the February meeting.
Diamond told commissioners they were “trying to clean up” a bad decision on the variance with the new proposed ordinance. Cheifetz complained about process, saying the public wasn’t adequately informed about the dock issue.
“I’m concerned about the unseemly way this was pursued,” Cheifetz said. “Residents should have gotten better notice. It strikes me that this whole thing is being rushed through on an unseemly basis.”
Waters and Town Manager Linda Stumpf said the variance request and dock ordinance proposal were properly noticed and detailed in the monthly meeting agenda posted on the town’s website before the commission meets.
The mayor said commissioners were acting in the best interest of Manalapan, and he bristled at the suggestion by some opponents that the variance approval was linked to the commission’s relationship with Siemon.
“You’re wrong,” Waters said of the critics. “You’re dead wrong, but you already know that.”
The ordinance would set a two-year limit for home construction to begin and restrict use of the dock to the property owner during that time. The proposal is scheduled to come up for a first vote at the commission’s meeting on March 24.