BELMAR, NJ — Belmar is making it easier for property owners with “nonconforming” dwellings destroyed by fire to rebuild their homes to their original state.

The borough council at its June 7 meeting approved an ordinance that permits homeowners through a streamlined approval process to rebuild in the exact footprint of where these structures had once stood, limited to the extent of the previous nonconformity or pre-existing condition.

They will no longer need to seek site plan and/or subdivision approval if their homes do not comply with current zoning requirements — whether that is having an undersized lot for the new dwelling or rebuilding a two-family structure where only single-family homes are now permitted, for example.

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However, they still need to obtain a development permit before construction can begin. The measure was adapted from an ordinance approved after Superstorm Sandy for homeowners facing similar circumstances after their dwellings were destroyed by the 2012 storm.

As a town that dates back to 1872, Belmar has many homes that were built as far back as 100 years ago. And when one of these dwellings is destroyed by fire, the homeowner is faced with having to seek variances to meet current zoning laws in order to rebuild the structure as it once was. As a result, rebuilding becomes a time-consuming, cost-prohibitive process that many times forces these homeowners to abandon their efforts.

The new law is welcomed news to Mark and Dianne Luckasavage, whose 114-year-old shore colonial home on 10th Avenue was one of two homes destroyed in an April 12 fire. They were asleep in an upstairs bedroom when they were awakened by the fire alarm at 12:45 a.m. and were able to escape unharmed with their two dogs.

In addition to commending the council for passing the new ordinance, Mark Luckasavage also thanked those who extended a helping hand during and after the fire. “I want to express my gratitude to the whole town of Belmar,” he said, specifically singling out the police and fire department, and emergency medical service personnel for their assistance. “I am happy to live here and will be living here for many years.”

The couple also had another reason for attending the meeting — they came to personally thank Mayor Matthew Doherty for marrying them earlier in the day.

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