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Sunday, July 21, 2024

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Decatur Street Lots Remain Non-Commercial

By Jack Fichter

CAPE MAY — After public outcry from homeowners on Decatur and Bank streets, Cape May City Council killed an ordinance that would have rezoned, as commercial, parts of the historic district.
A number of new faces filled a section of city hall auditorium Aug. 21. They had received certified letters informing them council may pass an ordinance at that meeting that would change the zoning status of their homes.
During public comment, Bank Street resident Christine Miller said she objected to a proposal to rezone both sides of Elmira Street between Lafayette and Broad streets to commercial along with the city’s Transportation Center.
“Speaking as president of the Bank Street Improvement Association, we fought for 20 years to keep our neighborhood residential,” she said. “You could have a McDonalds at the corner of Elmira and Broad streets.”
Miller also objected to the proposed ordinance rezoning properties on Carpenter’s Lane, which she said was part of the city’s plan to expand the mall in all directions.
She said she also objected to the rezoning of the Merry Widow condo at the corner of Jackson Street and Carpenters Lane to C-1 commercial which would allow a bar or restaurant.
The most public objection came from a proposed rezoning of a section of Decatur Street to commercial. Miller said those lots included a jeweler, Freda’s Cafe, the Lynn Arden shop, and a property that goes through to Hughes Street.
She said a commercial lot would exist across from the city’s library. Miller said a house on Decatur Street that was not on the mall side was being rezoned commercial.
The remains of drive-thru bank would have been including in the commercial zone.
Decatur Street resident Mark Sutcher said he opposed the extension of the C-1 zone into Decatur and Hughes streets.
Decatur Street resident Dick Landon said the drive-thru bank lot once had a Victorian home on it. He said the drive-thru has not been used in 15 years. He said residents of Hughes, Decatur and Jackson streets were very proud of their homes and had put a lot of money into them.
Landon said those streets represented the “heart of the historic district.”
“It really shouldn’t be converted into a commercial district in which almost anything can go,” he said.
Councilwoman Linda Steenrod asked the entire ordinance be sent back to the planning board for a “detailed review.” She said properties should be reviewed on a lot-by-lot rather than zoning a whole block.
The audience applauded Steenrod’s comment.
Mayor Jerome E. Inderwies said the planning board “worked very hard” for two and a half years on zoning changes.
Mike Shouvlin, a planning board member who has submitted his resignation, said the changes were seen as a way to control density. He said the committee found most properties in Cape May where non-conforming.
Resident Ann Landon said historic streets where Cape May’s “crown jewel.”
“What committee would cannibalize such an asset for the financial gain of one or two individuals?” she asked. “How do you justify that?”
Before the ordinance was tabled, Deputy Mayor Niels Favre requested lots in Admiral Estates between Baltimore and Pittsburgh avenues not be changed from R-1 (residential) to RS which would have allowed condos. He said that was not appropriate along the beachfront.
Steenrod said the planning board had no malicious intent in mind to recommend the zoning changes.
Inderwies said the ordinance, as presented, would not surface again.

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