Friday, December 1, 2023

Stone Harbor Introduces New Side Yard Setback Rules

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By Vince Conti

STONE HARBOR – The Stone Harbor Council introduced an ordinance, Sept. 18, that changes the rules regarding side yard setbacks. Residents at the meeting praised the change: Even among those who feel that more needs to be done, most agreed with resident Mary Packer, who called the ordinance a “good start.”

Others used stronger language. Geoff Woolery said the setback regulations were a look to the borough’s future. Ray Parzych, an ex-member of the governing body and husband of a current member, said the new regulations would help preserve the charm and ambience that sets the community apart from the other ocean-fronting towns in the county. He predicted that passage of the ordinance would keep borough property values high.

The new ordinance deals with a revision to side yard setbacks in residential zones A, B and C, with an aim to retain open space in the borough. In this instance the council was guided by one of its own, Bernadette “Bunny” Parzych, who felt that a plan sent over by the Planning Board earlier in the month did “not go far enough.”

What Parzych urged and what was included in the ordinance as introduced was that the application of the side yard setbacks be increased and apply to all lots. Parzych outlined a base side yard setback that expands as street frontage of a lot grows beyond a base level of 50 feet in the residential C zone.

The side yard setbacks would be set at a minimum of 10 feet with a required 20% of street footage rounded to the nearest whole foot.

There was a concern raised with the ordinance as introduced. Some of those who spoke worried that the council was not specifying what could and could not go into the wider setback area. As Woolery expressed it, “How much space can be taken up?”

Woolery and others urged the council to consider limiting the space that can be “filled” in the setback area. No one suggested stopping the current ordinance from going forward as is; any limits on the use of the setback area were seen by most who spoke as a next step.

Former Mayor Suzanne Walters disagreed with Ray Parzych, arguing that the ordinance would dampen property values. Walters told the council that “you say you are not diminishing the value of the property, but you are.” She argued that although the ordinance allows for a house with the same square footage as currently allowed, “everything else is going to be lessened.”

Walters added that if the council was going to do this anyway, “you might as well get what you are shooting for and keep the setback areas clear.”

Unlike Woolery, who urged the council to consider restrictions on what could go into the new open area, Walters said the goal of more open space could only be achieved by “prohibiting everything” that homeowners could put into the setback space.

A public hearing on the ordinance is expected to be held at the Oct. 17 council meeting.

Contact the author, Vince Conti, at


Vince Conti is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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