The city of Cape May, N.J., has introduced an ordinance to allow 9-foot tents and cabanas on its beach. The Cape May County Herald reported that the ordinance requires the tents to be no more than 150 square feet, and they can only obstruct the view of the ocean by up to 20 percent. For example, if a landowner has 200 feet of beachfront property, the total width of the tents or the cabanas cannot exceed 40 feet.
The city also ruled that only one row of tents is allowed and must be placed halfway between the end of the dune line closest to the ocean and the official high water mark. The tents and cabanas may have floors, however.
The compromise ordinance came after a lengthy dispute over whether tents should be allowed on Cape May’s beach at all. Previous ordinances allowed for “temporary structures” of up to 7 feet tall. But some residents felt that even allowing the tents was unfair and catered to the interests of beachfront hotels. The issue first arose last summer when Congress Hall Hotel erected six 12-by-12-foot tents on the beach in front of its property.
Congress Street resident Barbara Skinner said the hotels should not be able to lease city-owned beach to put up tents. “They don’t own the beach, and Cape May doesn’t need the revenue,” Skinner said. “I don’t want the look of our beach to become a merchandizing tool for the hotels.”
But Patrick Logue, manager of Congress Hall Hotel, said the beach tents would help the city compete with other world-class resort destinations. The tents at Congress Hall are available for the general public to rent if they so wish. Resident Jim Moffitt said the tents were “beautiful,” and Bernie Haas, publisher of Cape May Magazine, agreed.
The new 9-foot ordinance was announced in May and will expire at the end of December 2010. Thereafter, the permissible height of tents will revert back to the original 7 feet tall.