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Holmes Beach commissioners vote for FAR limits

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

The duplex units at 203 69th St. are “per se violations” of the city’s building code, according to Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen. She told fellow commissioners June 12 that the homes include first-floor living areas and are being marketed for stays less than a week in violation of the seven-day minimum in the Residential-2 zoning district.

    Holmes Beach city commissioners June 12 took a step closer to implementing floor-area ratio requirements in Holmes Beach.

    Three of five commissioners agreed that FARs should become part of the city’s land development code.

    On a motion by Commissioner Jean Peelen, seconded by Commission Chair David Zaccagnino, the vote moved the city forward on limiting the size of residential properties. Commissioners John Monetti and Sandy Haas-Martens dissented.

    The floor-area ratios being considered by the commission will limit the total square feet of residential construction depending on lot size.

    The building code focus group, headed by Peelen, recommended a .30 FAR for R-2 zoned properties, and .35 for R-1 zoned properties.

    These recommendations, and others, came from focus groups headed by commissioners to address the problems relating mostly to rental properties, including garbage, noise and parking. The groups also identified problems relating to builders and rental agents circumventing building codes, leading to the development of oversized accommodations.

    The issue came to a head in December last year when more than 100 people attended a solutions-oriented meeting, and the focus groups were formed.

    Mayor Rich Bohnenberger first asked for reasoning behind the new building code restrictions.

    Peelen replied, “To stop the enormous houses from being built,” and in turn, relieve the problems they create, relating to land use, water and other utility use and disruption of neighbors’ quiet enjoyment of their properties.

    “It’s not an aesthetic issue,” she said.

    Bohnenberger said there are other ways to implement control over the number of rooms and home sizes.

    But Peelen said her focus group recommended residential FARs after considering regulating rooms, lot coverage, setbacks and other building code restraints, because “it made the most sense.

    “The most reasonable solution was the FAR requirement,” she said.

    Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens said she was concerned about nonconforming uses that result from a new overlay of percentages of floor space.

    “People are going to find a way around them,” Haas-Martens said.

    Zaccagnino supported FAR, saying the city needs to “adjust the size of the container” to curtail “the size of structure going up,” and stop homes being built to sleep 16-18 people.

    Zaccagnino said he was no longer concerned with the creation of nonconforming uses because of Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations. “We’re all nonconforming,” he said.

    Commissioner John Monetti favored additional discussion before the vote about FAR.

    Commissioner Pat Morton said he saw FAR as “a double-edged sword” with “pros and cons.” But, in weighing the existing situation of “real estate agents out there on the web,” advertising homes in a seven-day minimum rental zones for three days or less, he said, “I’m in favor of looking into FAR.”

    The city’s R-2 zone allows for a maximum occupancy of two families and minimum one-week rentals, according to the land development code and comprehensive plan.

    The code defines family as “Any number of individuals related by blood, marriage or legal adoption, and not more than four persons not so related, living together as a single housekeeping unit. Foster children are considered part of a family.”

Commission poll on FAR numbers

    In a poll of Residential-2 zoning FAR preferences, Peelen and Zaccagnino favored a .30, and commissioners Sandy Haas-Martens and John Monetti favored .61.

    Commissioner Pat Morton said, “if you build it, they will come,” and he chose a lower FAR number of .25.

        He later said he wanted Haas-Martens and Monetti to eventually come down to meet him at .30, but the vote was 3-2 and no compromise was needed.

One Response to Holmes Beach commissioners vote for FAR limits

  1. Philip A Dieffenbach says:

    I think that the positions on FAR which Sandy Haas-Martens and John Monetti presented at the June 12th show where the problem on these important issues lies in our City Council lies. We now have two viable candidates who reflect the concerns of the citizens: Judy Holmes Titsworth and Marvin Grossman.

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