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Monday, May 20, 2024


Middle Discusses Master Plan Items

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By Vince Conti

COURT HOUSE – Middle Township Committee devoted its May 17 work session to a discussion of items and recommendations from the 2020 Master Plan Reexamination Report approved by the Planning Board in November 2020 ( 
The committee May 3 approved nine zoning changes contained in the report ( 
The May 17 discussion introduced other report recommendations, which Mayor Timothy Donohue would like to structure for a public discussion sometime in early July.
Short-term rentals
Recommendations dealt with short-term rentals, especially those booked through online transient rental applications, like Airbnb. It’s an issue many towns in the county are wrestling with, as online booking services continue to grow as venues for rentals. 
Cape May County Tourism Director Diane Wieland recently told the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce that online transient booking services in the county grew by 30% in 2020 over 2019.
Middle Township imposes a 3% occupancy tax on hotel and motel stays but has not extended that municipal tax to transient rentals booked through online applications. 
State law allows municipalities to impose the tax if the governing body adopts an appropriate ordinance.
Donohue said he did not want to hurt this avenue for property owners to earn additional revenue, but felt the municipality had to look carefully at the public safety issues involved in unlicensed, uninspected space being rented to visitors at an increasing rate. The tax might be a necessary way of paying for needed safety reviews.
Accessory Apartments
There appeared to be broad support on the committee for the recommendation that would allow accessory apartments without the need for a Planning Board variance. 
Part of the recommendation was to alter existing land use ordinances to permit accessory apartments that would be 30% of the square footage of the main dwelling. 
This might involve the conversion of a garage, construction of quarters above a garage, or even building a separate structure on the property. The apartments would have to meet construction, health, and safety inspections.
These quarters are conceived as a long-term arrangement, six-month minimum, and would not be included in regulations related to transient space short-term rentals. 
There was discussion of allowing property owners to receive a stipend from the municipality, perhaps as much as $10,000 or $15,000, if they desired to deed restrict the accessory apartment as low to moderate-income housing, as part of the municipality’s low-income housing obligation.
The Master Plan Report recommended the municipality consider redefining marinas, so there was a distinction between purely recreational marinas suitable for coexistence with residential neighborhoods and industrial marinas located apart from residential areas and allowed to engage in loading and off-loading of barges and other similar quasi-industrial activities.
Light Industrial Businesses 
The 2010 reexamination report ended zoning approval for light industrial businesses. The current report recommends bringing some light industrial use back, as a permitted activity.  
Donohue dispelled the image of large plants and smokestacks, saying light industry might comprise flexibility for warehousing, or part assembly and similar peripheral industrial uses that could bring jobs and taxes to the municipality.
Multifamily Dwelling Complexes
A final area of discussion was the Planning Board recommendation that some setback requirements be altered to allow more flexibility for the construction of multifamily units on two or three-acre parcels. 
The goal, as with the accessory apartments, would be to increase variety in the housing stock in ways that would allow young individuals and couples to afford rental or first purchase space. 
The committee voiced concern that the housing stock is dominated by single-family homes that are rising in value, closing out the young that may need more modest accommodations if they are to remain in the municipality.
Possible July Public Meeting
The work session was a broad discussion of the items from the report without any attempt to reach decisions. Between now and a potential early July public meeting, municipal staff will continue to put greater specificity to the recommendations and explore the pros and cons of implementation strategies.
Donohue said he hoped public gathering restrictions would be eased sufficiently by July to allow for an in-person public forum on the recommendations. 
He said public input is a much-needed step before the governing body acts on the recommendations.
To contact Vince Conti, email

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