Height Restrictions on Solid Hedges

Dear Editor,

On January 25th, there will be a second reading and a final vote on a revised ordinance that could diminish the value of your home and change the entire appearance of Ocean City. The proposed ordinance removes all height restrictions on solid hedges. We have talked with many homeowners who are very upset about this proposed ordinance change.

Recently, our next-door neighbors installed a 6-foot privacy fence without our permission. City-wide, fences are limited to 4 feet and can be up to 6 feet only with the permission of the adjacent neighbor. When our neighbors were ordered by the city to remove the 6-foot fence, they told us they would then plant a solid hedge and totally block us out. This non-conforming hedge, only 10 feet from our home, which the owners have refused to remediate, is now 15 feet high and will grow to 25 feet or higher. The hedge devalues our property by shading our home and yard, blocking breezes, and restricting the view of our home from the street. Under the city’s ordinance, what happened to us could happen to you. Your million-dollar views of the ocean and/or bay could be totally blocked by a solid 25 foot or higher wall of green.

The City Solicitor, Dorothy McCrosson, claims that non-conforming hedges are a city-wide problem and that it’s impossible to enforce compliance. (Under the current ordinance, hedges are treated like fences and are subject to the same limitations.) However, at the City Council meeting on January 11th, Ms. McCrosson admitted that the city only receives about 6 complaints a year on non-conforming hedges. Our own survey confirmed that there are only a handful of non-conforming hedges across the island, including about 2-3 in the Riviera and 10 in the Gardens, including the three 20-foot solid hedges around the Mayor’s house.

The city should focus on the handful of homeowners who refuse to obey the ordinances, instead of rewarding bad behavior by dropping the ordinance altogether. If some residents routinely speed down Asbury Avenue at 75 mph, should the city react by dropping all speed limits?

Unfortunately, Ocean City will have the distinction of being the only South Jersey beach town to have no height restrictions on solid hedges. With properties so close together on the island, our city should be enacting and enforcing ordinances that protect our property values, not destroy them.

Call your City Council people and express your concerns with this proposed ordinance that will be harmful to our community and make sure to come to the City Council meeting on Thursday, January 25, at 7:00 PM on the Third Floor of City Hall to voice your concerns.

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