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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Stone Harbor Reintroduces Courts Rezoning Ordinance

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By Vince Conti

STONE HARBOR – Two months after an ordinance for rezoning failed, a revised version returned Oct. 20 for reintroduction in Stone Harbor, passing only when Mayor Judith Davies Dunhour broke a 3-to-3 tie with an affirmative vote. 

The ordinance would authorize the rezoning of Bower, Stone, and Weber Courts, along with Linden Lane. The rezoning would allow properties on four narrow streets with undersized lots to increase their space by 60% above the current limits of less than 600 square feet. 

The properties on these four streets are generally referred to in the borough as the Courts. Many of the homes date to an earlier era, when small bungalows were built on undersized lots. Homeowners have advocated for greater flexibility to expand for years.  

The ordinance that would permit a limited second-floor addition grows out of the borough’s Master Plan Reexamination Report. It has been argued and reargued in the borough’s Planning Board sessions. It has also been the subject of litigation. 

In August, the ordinance’s earlier version failed to be adopted by Stone Harbor Borough Council on a vote of two in favor and four against. This time, Councilman Ray Parzych changed his vote to affirmative, creating the tie and giving Davies-Dunhour the opportunity to vote. In Stone Harbor’s form of government, the mayor may only vote to break ties. 

Several property owners from the Courts took to the podium to urge an affirmative vote. They pointed to the increasing size of homes on the numbered streets behind them, with one likening his plight to living in a canyon in which he had lost access to sunlight.  

Some complained at the ease with which the larger homes are granted variances, while they, as residents of the Courts, do not have room for modern appliances and heating systems. 

Weber Court resident urged the council to vote yes because “it is the right thing to do.” 

Those opposed cited safety concerns, as more cars will follow in the wake of expanded homes, making passage of emergency vehicles impossible on the narrow lanes. The borough’s fire chief expressed reservations about expanded homes on the narrow lanes. 

Some argued that expansion in the Courts is another blow to the preservation of the old Stone Harbor. When explaining his vote, Parzych said, “The old Stone Harbor is already gone.” 

Having survived reintroduction, the ordinance will return for a public hearing at the Nov. 16 council meeting. 

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com. 

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