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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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Bayfront Wildwoods Homeowners on Hook for Expensive Bulkhead Replacements

In Wildwood Crest

By Shay Roddy

CORRECTION: The below story incorrectly stated that owners of bulkheads in Wildwood and North Wildwood with a height of fewer than 6 feet above the flood elevation will be required to raise their bulkheads to 8 feet by 2030. In fact, private bulkhead owners will only need to raise them to 6 feet by that year, if a full replacement is not needed.

WILDWOOD – Bayfront homeowners in the Wildwoods will soon have to pay out of pocket to raise or reconstruct low-lying bulkheads, as officials look to solve tidal flooding problems and prepare for the continuing effects of sea level rise.  

New ordinances are in effect in Wildwood and North Wildwood, which require homeowners with a bulkhead height of 6 feet or fewer above the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88) to raise or reconstruct their bulkhead to an elevation of at least 8 feet by 2030 at their own expense.  

West Wildwood introduced a similar ordinance May 6 that requires bulkheads below 6 feet to be brought up to 8.5 feet above NAVD 88 by 2040. Wildwood Crest has plans to join its neighbors in a similar ordinance but has not yet introduced its version.  

The ordinances include a caveat that the towns also need to comply with all public bulkheads by the deadline, or extensions will kick in – a recurring one-year extension in Wildwood and West Wildwood and a recurring two-year extension in North Wildwood.  

With any new construction or where property owners are making significant renovations, they will be required to install a complying bulkhead immediately.   

Property owners in each of the towns will be required to comply with a permitting and review and inspection process that will cost at least $1,000 – more for larger bulkheads – and must use approved materials and create watertight seals with neighboring bulkheads.  

The actual construction process can cost tens of thousands of dollars per property. By nature, older homes, like cottages from the 60s and 70s, often have the lowest-lying bulkheads and those will be the most expensive to bring into compliance.  

Officials across the island worked together on the ordinance, operating under the premise that the bayfront will only be as strong as its weakest point and that to do this successfully, there would need to be islandwide participation.  

“Go two blocks north or south of any of the towns, if they’re at one level and we’re at another level, that water is going to come over that lower level and is still going to flow to that neighboring town,” Wildwood Mayor Peter Byron said in an interview. “We really should all be on board with the same timetable.” 

In Wildwood Crest, a public meeting held in early April, specifically to address the ordinance, got contentious and has apparently caused some delay in the rollout of the law there.  

“You’re never going to have everybody happy. I’m not going to put something forward without their input,” Crest Mayor Don Cabrera said in an interview after the meeting. “I don’t want to drop an ordinance on them with no discussion with the public… It’s more of a partnership to stop flooding. You (residents) have investments; we, as a municipality, have investments. We need to work together.” 

Cabrera said the town plans to require 8 feet of elevation, like in Wildwood and North Wildwood. He said the city is exploring funding options that could help private property owners with the expense.  

“It’s got to be done. I think what I’m going to do is push it back. Originally, I was going to ask for 2030, but I think we’re going to push it back to 2040,” he said.  

Byron said the reaction to the ordinance being passed in Wildwood has been quiet. There was no big stakeholder meeting there like the Crest had, and Wildwood’s mayor surmised many affected property owners aren’t even aware of what’s going on yet.  

“It hasn’t really gone out, so I haven’t gotten any phone calls relative to that,” Byron said. “They’re not going to be happy about it because it’s not a cheap ordeal.” 

In North Wildwood, Mayor Patrick Rosenello downplayed the impact the ordinance will have because the city has a lot of work to do raising its public bulkheads before it will force homeowners to comply. 

“We have a lot to do in North Wildwood. We’ve applied for several different federal flood mitigation grants, but have not received any, as of yet. I think it’s going to be quite a number of years before all the public property in North Wildwood is at those elevations,” Rosenello told the Herald. 

To contact Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com. 

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