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Date of Issue: October 13, 2005

Height restriction draws fire from Anna Maria business owners

The division between residential and business property owners in Anna Maria flared up once again, this time at the planning and zoning board’s Oct. 3 meeting to discuss the future land-use element of the proposed revisions to the city’s comprehensive plan.

Board member Frank Pytel proposed a 27-foot-height restriction for new construction on 5,000-square-foot non-conforming lots as a recommendation to the city commission in the FLUE.

Pytel said the proposal is for redevelopment and new construction on "any" 5,000-square-foot lot, "regardless of where it is" in the city. Houses on such lots that were destroyed by accident, such as a hurricane, could be rebuilt as before, but would have to meet other relevant city codes. Owners of lots 7,500 square feet or larger could build to the city’s current 37-foot height limitation.

While board members generally agreed this suggestion would be in conformance with the comprehensive plan’s "desire" to keep Anna Maria a residential community, business owners, particularly those in the retail-office-residential zoned area along Pine Avenue, opposed the measure.

Professional planner Bob Schmitt, who represents more than 20 business owners in the city, said the measure is "punitive" to the owner of a 5,000-square-foot lot because you could have an elevated business in the ROR, but not a third floor.

In addition, he said, the proposal is also punitive to owners of residential lots of that size because they would not be able to build an elevated home - per Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements - and have a second floor of living space.

Business owner Joanne Mattick agreed.

The measure would "wreak economic havoc" in residential areas because it would inflate the value of a 37-foot-high home compared with a house that could only be 27 feet high.

If an owner "voluntarily" decides to rebuild on a 5,000-square-foot lot, they would be limited to a 27-foot- high structure. If that house were destroyed by an emergency, the owner could rebuild to 37 feet, she observed.

"This doesn’t make sense and it’s punitive to my neighbors. It’s a terrible mistake if the planning and zoning board recommends this" to the city commission, she concluded.

Property owner John Cagnina pointed out that 5,000- square-foot lots have always been part of the city since the original plat. Owners of such lots should not be held to more restrictive standards than those who own larger lots, he maintained.

The board was attempting to limit the height of new construction, particularly in the ROR district by restricting new construction to "two habitable floors."

With a 27-foot height restriction, the owner of a 5,000- square-foot lot in the ROR district could only have two habitable floors, and just one would be residential if he or she planned to have retail-office space.

Pine Avenue business owner Sandi Oldham noted that most of the lots on the north side of Pine Avenue are 5,000 square feet and three of those lots, at the former Island Marine property, have already been sold.

Board member Doug Copeland, who had favored a "wedding cake" approach to three-story structures in the ROR, said Pytel’s proposal goes "much further."

The board gave "consensus" to make the 27-foot limitation a recommendation to the city commission, but became stuck when it came to the policy for structures in the ROR district, regardless of lot size. The proposed policy would limit structures in the district to "two habitable floors."

Property owners in the ROR protested and board chairman Chris Collins suggested the board "come back to this" at its Oct. 24 meeting. The board will also continue discussion of other goals, objective and policies in the FLUE at that meeting.