LEFT: The 1979 Coastal Construction Control Line, shown in yellow, is farther east than the 1997 line, shown in purple. Both are east of State Road A1A. Map provided by Engenuity Group Inc. and Town of Ocean Ridge
By Larry Barszewski
A 2020 Ocean Ridge ordinance that got little notice at the time it was approved has become a major controversy for oceanfront property owners, who say they were given no warning about the changes in regulations it enacted, which they say have infringed on their property rights.
Town commissioners passed the ordinance giving the town some say on property construction east of the 1997 Coastal Construction Control Line. The state requires property owners to get a permit from its Department of Environmental Protection for any construction projects seaward of that line, but the ordinance required that any such work would also have to receive a permit from the town.
The ordinance also said no construction would be allowed east of an earlier, 1979 Coastal Construction Control Line, which is closer to the water than the 1997 line. On properties such as those between Anna and Corrine streets, where existing houses extend east of the 1979 control line, construction is only permitted within the structure’s existing footprint or with a variance from the town.
Other oceanfront homeowners have buildings sitting between the 1997 line and the 1979 line. Besides stating the requirement of a town permit for any construction, the ordinance also affected how big a rebuilt home or a home with an addition could be.
Previously, the amount of square footage was determined by the size of the property going out to the mean high-water line, which is to the east of the 1979 control line. The 2020 ordinance allows property owners to go only as far as the 1979 line when calculating allowable square footage.
Critics say they wouldn’t even be able to rebuild to the same size under the ordinance, let alone add space.
“Beach owners have been targeted,” said Merrilee Lundquist, whose home lies between the two control lines. “I think this ordinance has done more to destroy our net worth than the stock market ever had.”
Lundquist and other property owners requested the commission repeal the ordinance at its May 1 meeting, but commissioners decided more study was needed about the ramifications of any change. In addition, any change to a town ordinance would require two officially noticed readings before the commission.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” Commissioner Ken Kaleel said of the request. “You just can’t repeal something that you don’t know what the effect of that repeal is going to be.”
Town Attorney Christy Goddeau was instructed to report at the commission’s June meeting about the potential consequences of a repeal or smaller changes to the ordinance, as well as other factors the commission might need to consider.
Brett Berish told commissioners the ordinance is affecting his plans to add space to better accommodate his family of six children.
“All of us on the water, our property size and value have been affected,” said his wife, Alana Berish. The couple bought their home at 6275 N. Ocean Blvd. in 2021 after the ordinance was passed, but said no one told them about the implications of the changes.
“No one knew. Even now, no one truly understands,” Alana Berish said.