Brick Township's planning board on Wednesday night endorsed an ordinance calling for an overlay zone on top of properties in flood zones under newly-adopted FEMA advisory base flood elevation maps.
The ordinance, introduced on first reading by the township council last week, creates an overlay zone with the aim of allowing residents who are rebuilding their homes to new elevation standards to avoid having to obtain variances from the township's Board of Adjustment.
What the ordinance effectively does is maintain current maximum building height requirements, but adds on the amount to which a building must be elevated in a flood zone. The measure also includes exceptions that will give residents leeway to build necessary stairways to access their heightened properties from the front and rear.
Additionally, the new ordinance allows for utilities such as air conditioners and heating units to be moved upwards to base flood elevation, as the law now requires, said Elissa Commins, township engineer, who was present at the meeting.
The discussion eventually turned to what would become of the area, for 'V' zone residents, beneath the home, which would be up on pilings. While some residents may choose to leave the area open and use it as a covered space for cars, the ordinance also includes language that allows for break-away walls to cover the space, for both aesthetic and practical reasons.
Break-away walls around elevated homes is a common sight in areas like Long Beach Island.
"What normally happens is that you have a large area, and you start using it for living space," said board member Dominick Rappoccio.
Commins responded that while the area is not permitted to be living space, there is no specific prohibition against heating the area or using it in another way.
"They won't insure it, and you can't have any utilities beneath your base flood elevation," she said. "But conceivably, you could have your heater above it and pump heat down into it."
"Living space," she said, is commonly defined as an area that has a minimum clearance, heat and utilities, and meets fire code standards.
Taking away the ability to enclose the space beneath piling-elevated buildings has been the practice in some Brick neighborhoods already.
"We've had V zones in Brick Township along the oceanfront since 1972," said Commins. "If we take that away, we basically make the town one of the haves and the have nots, and we've worked very hard to make sure that doesn't happen."
The ordinance also includes measures that require landscaping in front of 30 percent of a foundation to break up the view of the foundational wall for those who enclose their space beneath the house, and for those in 'A' zones who raise their homes using cinder blocks.
Commins said the township is currently developing a specific form residents can fill out to apply to elevate their homes in order to streamline the process.
The planning board unanimously endorsed the measure. It is expected to be on the Feb. 19 council meeting agenda for a second reading, public hearing and final vote.