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West Cape May Proposes Zoning Changes to Create Downtown District

 

By Jack Fichter

WEST CAPE MAY — The borough’s Planning Board is recommending relaxing zoning regulations for businesses to encourage growth in West Cape May’s commercial districts on Broadway, Sunset and Park boulevards and to create a downtown area.
Planner Elizabeth Terenik presented a draft of proposed zoning changes at the board’s Jan. 27 meeting. She said the 2005 borough master plan spoke of creating “a critical mass” in the downtown district so businesses could be more successful.
The zoning changes encourage mixed-use structures with commercial on the ground floor and residential or professional offices on the upper floors. Terenik said such use would create continuous activity with customers patronizing stores and allow for more affordable housing for people who want to live and work in the borough.
The C-1 Broadway/Historic district runs on Broadway from Mechanic Street to Congress Street including the north side of Myrtle Avenue from Broadway to Park. The zone incorporates a number of older structures the borough wants to see preserved.
Permitted uses in the zone would include Bed and Breakfast Inns, hotels/motels, retail stores including Laundromats, personal and financial services, restaurants, professional offices, single family and two family residences encouraging commercial use on the ground floor with residential use upstairs. Churches and parking lots would be permitted.
Proposed changes in the zone include eliminating multi-family dwelling use and allowing B&Bs to have the same accessory uses as a hotel with changes in maximum seating for restaurants to two times the number of units and increased conference and meeting space to 20 percent of total square footage.
The C-2 Park/Neighborhood zone runs from the east side of Park Boulevard from Leaming Avenue to Perry Street. Parking in front of businesses is permitted as well as drive-thru banks. Permitted uses would include retail, specialty food, Laundromats, churches and residential use only if it is located above a commercial use.
Mayor Pam Kaithern, who is a member of the Planning Board, described the zone as hosting businesses that would serve local residents on a year-round basis.
The C-3 Sunset/Retail zone follows Sunset Boulevard between Columbia and Atlantic avenues to the end of Perry Street. Permitted uses would include retail, specialty food, Laundromats, restaurants, professional offices and parking lots. Residential use would only be permitted on floors above commercial units.
Proposed changes in C-3 include removing single and two family dwellings as a permitted use along with gas stations and car dealers. The existing gas station would be allowed to remain as a non-conforming use.
Terenik said the goal of this district is to be a high traffic, high pedestrian, high density, zero setback zone where everyone thing is close by creating “a real vibrant downtown,” at the intersection of Broadway and Sunset Boulevard.
Change in bulk requirements would allow for greater density and mass to be compatible with a traditional downtown environment with zero front and side yard setbacks, a 10 foot rear setback, 80 percent lot coverage and parking only in the rear.
The C-3 zone would have “building form requirements” governing features such as storefront display windows, windows, doors, facades and roof shape.
Terenik said there would be a “rhythm to the storefronts as far as the windows of the upper floors and lower floors matching up.”
Liquor stores or restaurants will be permitted in all three commercial zones along with outdoor dining.
Kaithern said the changes in all three zones would allow a 650 square foot minimum apartment for market rate housing or as small as a 300 square foot residential unit if it were an approved affordable housing unit. She said a third story and a height of 40 feet would be allowed if 50 percent of the units in a building are designated as affordable housing.
Terenik said alternatives would be offered to on-site parking: contribution to a dedicated parking fund for the purpose of the borough buying or leasing land to create a municipal parking lot or renting an off site parking space within 500 feet of a primary pedestrian entrance to the site.
The contribution to a dedicated parking fund could be as much as $5,000 based on the price of property in the borough.
A number of old homes on Broadway that could be converted to commercial use may not be able to meet parking requirements. If a preexisting building remains the same, in the same footprint, parking requirement would be waived.
The board discussed having no parking space requirements for commercial in the C-1 zone but voted unanimously to keep commercial parking requirements in place.
Borough Commission discussed the planning board’s recommendations Jan. 28. The commission will ultimately vote on the changes.
Commissioners suggested parking requirements be waived for existing buildings in C-1 except for restaurants, which are a more intense use. Their recommendations will be referred back to the Planning Board.

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