Belmar Looks to Bolsters Boat Storage Standards at Marinas, Gives Fire Officials More Authority in Enforcement Matters

In the wake of February’s fire at Seaport Inlet Marina, Belmar has proposed new rules to establish setback and safety standards for boats and boat storage systems in its marine commercial districts. Credits: Cathy Goetz
Under new rules proposed by the Belmar Borough Council, boat racking or storage systems at commercial marinas will be required to meet safety standards. Credits: Cathy Goetz

BELMAR, NJ — In the wake of February’s fire at Seaport Inlet Marina, Belmar proposes to expand its boat storage regulations to include commercial operations.

Introduced at the borough council’s June 7 meeting, the revised ordinance establishes setback and safety standards for boats and boat storage systems in the marine commercial districts that are situated along the Shark River. Currently, the borough law only addresses the storage of boats and recreational vehicle on residential properties for personal use.

Here’s a look at the proposed rules, which will be on the council’s June 20 agenda for a public hearing and final vote:

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  • All boats must be stored and all boat racks located at least 10 feet from all property lines, except if that property line is next to a navigable waterway.
  • Boats and boat parts must be properly secured on any type of racking or storage system.
  • Boat racking or storage systems can be no higher than three levels, and they must be equipped with a fire extinguishing system designed for the storage system.

The new rules were drafted in response to the February 14 fire at the Seaport Inlet Marina, which occurred when shrink-wrap material caught fire while a marina worker was using an open-flame torch to apply the material. No one was injured in the smoky blaze, which was ruled accidental by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, but it destroyed 12 boats stored in a racking system and prompted an evacuation of the surrounding residential neighborhood.

The incident has raised concerns among nearby residents over operations at the marina, which sits on the banks of the Shark River — sandwiched between residential homes and the new Riverwalk at Belmar, a three-story building of condominiums and professional offices that stands at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street.

Meanwhile, Belmar Fire Marshall Ryan Dullea reports that marina owner Robert Gerzsenyi has remedied all 29 violations found during the marina’s annual Fire Prevention Bureau inspection, conducted in April. The corrective actions taken include establishing a formal procedure for the shrink-wrap operation of boats in storage, better delineating the fire lane that runs from the marina’s main driveway on Fifth Avenue to the riverfront, storing propane tanks in enclosed cages and paint in fireproof cabinets, installing lighted exit signs in the office and garage area, repairing holes in ceilings and replacing faulty extension cords.

In addition, $5,000 worth of fire extinguishers have been purchased, and updated N.J. Uniform Fire Code permits are in place for the usage of torch devices and propane. Sprinkler systems will also be installed on the facility’s boat racks.

Site plans for both seasonal and winter operations at the marina, including the number of vessels being stored at any given time, are in the process of being finalized, according to Dullea.


Strengthening the Powers of Fire Protection Bureau

In other fire-related action, the Belmar Borough Council on June 7 strengthened the Bureau of Fire Protection’s authority when dealing with fire prevention and enforcement matters. The governing body unanimously approved the following regulations:

  • Borough fire officials must be notified whenever a fire alarm is activated so that an inspection can be made of the fire alarm system.
  • All occurrences of spills or leakages of flammable, combustible or hazardous materials must be reported immediately.
  • When a property is under a “fire watch” due to a fire alarm problem or an actual fire — and on-site fire personnel and equipment are required — the property owner or occupant must obtain a permit that sets fees for such services.
  • There must be a 10-foot minimum clearance to a fire hydrant or connection on public and private streets, access lanes or private property.
  • Fire lanes, as established by borough fire officials, must be at least 18 feet wide for fire and emergency vehicle access. In addition, they must be maintained by property owners following borough requirements.
  • Open burning throughout Belmar is prohibited, except when a permit is obtained.

Violations of these regulations could results in penalties of up to $1,000 and/or up to 90 days in jail, under this ordinance.


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