Multimillion dollar homes in the maritime forest of the high dunes in Avalon. Photo by Leslie Truluck.
AVALON — Coyle Connolly, at 5109 Dune Drive, is permitted to expand his property in the high dunes but not to add a pool since council partially approved his application by resolution at its meeting June 10.
Concerned residents voiced their opposition of allowing a larger structure on the high dunes with array of concerns from ecological impact to property value decline April 6 at a Planning/Zoning hearing and at council’s hearing May 27.
The borough’s Beach Protection Ordinance, a set of protection regulations established by the borough to supplement the Department of Environmental Protection’s Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA), prohibits pools in the R1-AA zone, where the applicant’s property is located.
Members of Save Avalon’s Dunes (SAD), a volunteer group with the mission to “conserve and protect from development on Avalon’s unique high dunes,” objected to the project and said it would destroy the dunes and its unique maritime forest habitat.
On June 8, SAD volunteer Elaine Scattergood filed a complaint in Superior Court for “emergency conjunctive relief,” but since the court did not issue an order preventing council from action, it did not impact council’s ability to approve the expansion, Solicitor Stephen Barse said.
The expansion was approved by a 4-0 vote. Councilman Joseph Tipping was not permitted to participate because his wife Beth Tipping is a member of the Planning/Zoning Board.
However, several properties in that zone have pools, which were approved before the 1983 protection ordinance, Councilwoman Nancy Hudanich said.
Therefore, Connelly may hear the splash of his neighbors’ pools but he can’t have one himself.
Connolly, Seven Mile Island LLC, was approved for a CAFRA permit to expand the first and second floors and install a pool.
The applicant entered into a “mediation agreement” with the DEP not to exceed a footprint of 4,200 square feet, Council Vice-President Charles Covington explained.
Borough ordinance complies with the borough’s 1994 State Aid Agreement with the DEP and is intended to prevent “significant adverse long-term impact,” Hudanich said.
Coastal experts Dr. Stuart Ferrell and Dr. Richard Wagel previously testified that the property could withstand a “100-year storm.”
Final decision was placed on council, after a recommendation not to allow the pool from the combined Planning/Zoning Board, which serves only as an advisory board.
Over the past three years, Connolly and his attorney, Steve Hankin, have challenged the validity of the borough’s protection ordinance, arguing that beach and dune protection is already litigated by the DEP and that the regulation only affects this property since pools exist at most of the properties in the zone.
State Attorney General Stuart Rabner stated, “It is ultimately Avalon’s decision whether or not to grant this permit for construction…it is the DEP’s position that municipalities can be more stringent than CAFRA in terms of permitting developments,” in a letter to the borough’s attorney dated March 26, 2007.
“It is our responsibility to protect the dunes and it is the dunes’ responsibility to protect the borough,” said Council President David Ellenberg, who serves as council representative to the Planning/Zoning Board.