Railing, Fire Pit Ordinances Adopted in Surf City

Homeowner Asks Town to Reconsider and Allow Glass Panel Railing System
Mar 20, 2019

Transparency – that’s the word Bill Creelman used to describe what he and his wife hope to achieve with the materials they use for the deck railings on the Surf City home they’ve been building for nearly a year.

They selected a glass panel that wouldn’t block views, Creelman told the borough council at its March 13 meeting. However, under an amended zoning ordinance exempting deck railings on residential structures from height restrictions set forth in the borough’s uniform construction code, deck railings must have open-style balusters.

“I am puzzled by the baluster (requirement),” Creelman said, asking the council to reconsider.

A baluster is defined as a series of short pillars or columns, decorative in design, that support a railing system.

Although Mayor Francis Hodgson said he personally doesn’t have a problem with using glass as part of a deck railing system, he follows the guidance of borough professionals.

“We can’t (allow) horizontal spindles because kids can climb it,” Hodgson said, noting the amended ordinance has been bounced around between the council, the land use board, the borough engineer and borough attorney before being presented for final consideration last week.

Ordinance 2019-04 is the result of concerns that the 3 feet railing height requirement was too low for young children, the mayor said. So, it was increased by a foot.

Creelman, whose wife raised the concern over the 3 feet height requirement because of their grandchildren, said he didn’t see what the two things had to do with each other. Turning briefly from the council, he unzipped a bag and removed a small sample of a glass panel. The sample, he said, was the material he and his wife were planning to use on their deck railing system. He said the panel could be customized.

Panel – that’s the word that tripped up council members when considering Creelman’s request to loosen baluster requirements. Councilman William Hodgson wanted to know what the wind rating was for a solid glass panel, while Councilman Peter Hartney had his own safety concerns for using the glass railing system at the height of at least three feet.

“It’s not a wall,” Bob Brunett, who installs railing systems, told the council. “There is a wind allowance for it. It’s tempered glass. It if breaks it will do so like a windshield.”

Creelman said other towns, such as Long Beach Township, have a flexible approach to railing systems.

“What they (Long Beach Township officials) do is another thing,” the mayor said.

After a brief discussion about whether borough engineer Frank Little should weigh in again on the amended ordinance, the council agreed to vote on it and amend, if necessary.

The council also adopted a second ordinance, this one governing fire pits, with the acknowledgement they could amend at a later date, if necessary. If the council had chosen to hold off voting on either zoning ordinance, the process to bring such measures before the council would begin all over again.

Dan Malay, owner of How You Brewin, asked the council to reconsider the 10-foot setback for all fire pits in Ordinance 2019-05, saying it exceeds the state fire regulations.

“It pigeonholes those of us with gas (fire pits),” Malay said, noting the ordinance should have separate setbacks for gas-powered and ember-producing, or smoke-generated, fire pits.

The mayor reminded everyone ember producing fire pits are not permitted.

“When embers start flying the phone starts ringing,” he said.

Portable fire pits are allowed under the ordinance and do not require a permit from the zoning officer. Still, use of such devices must adhere to location requirements laid out in the ordinance, including being a minimum of 5 feet from any building or accessory structure and a minimum 10 feet from any lot line. Permanent fire devices shall be a minimum of 5 feet from any building or accessory structure and a minimum often 10 feet from any lot line.

Permanent fire devices cannot exceed 3 feet in height or cover an area greater than 6 feet by 6 feet. Only one permanent fire pit is allowed on a lot or a series of continuous lots under the same ownership.

— Gina G. Scala


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