Holmes Beach commissioners directed city planner Bill Brisson to select from a prepared list and examine three recent construction projects to estimate the cost of a more extensive building-practices study.
At their Sept. 25 meeting, commissioners grappled on Residential-2 building issues, including alleged land-development code violations and questionable building practices identified by commission candidate Judy Holmes Titsworth and others in the past several months.
After a lengthy discussion, during which Commissioner John Monetti labeled the matter “an issue” — not a problem — Chair David Zaccagnino asked Brisson to choose three projects from a list of properties and the alleged problems for each prepared by Titsworth.
Brisson is expected to estimate the study costs based on an hourly rate of $105, and by choosing three representative properties from Titsworth’s list of alleged problems, including:
• 307 66th St. — Lacking adequate parking for short-term rental.
• 203 N. Harbor Drive — Elevator encroaching in third level setback, lacking adequate parking for short-term rental.
• 207 N. Harbor Drive — Lacking adequate parking for short-term rental.
• 305 56th St. — A common-foundation footer was permitted to tie into the existing ground-floor structure on a duplex property, and the two buildings were allowed to avoid spacing rules.
• 308 and 310 68th St. — Third-living level encroachment on 308 68th St. Both buildings encroach on a 20-foot front-yard setback and lack adequate parking.
• 2803 Ave. E — 11-foot wall and living area encroach in the third-level setback. An elevator shaft has been converted into three levels of closets.
• 5311 Sunrise Lane — Lacked pool permit; pool enclosure did not meet safety requirement, a trench was allowed in lieu of fencing; lack of lot calculations and final survey before issuing a certificate of occupancy; no engineered stormwater retention, two docks on one lot in violation of state code and a dock addition that encroaches in the 25-foot state setback for Outstanding Florida Waterways.
• 405 and 407 74th St. — No elevation certificate on file, third-living level on both buildings encroach on the 15-foot setback; 30-foot separation between building and considered one building due to footer connection.
Titsworth’s list follows her look at various properties, including meetings and emails with public works superintendent Joe Duennes and Mayor Rich Bohnenberger in August and September.
Titsworth said the list represents building practices that have run amok and have led to residential over-development.
Commissioners also talked about the possibility of a broader three- to five-year look back on the city’s building department practices, as recommended by city attorney Patricia Petruff.
Petruff favored the Brisson examination on building practices saying, “I think it would be an appropriate task to determine if the issues, the complaints, allegations, or whatever you want to call them, are valid or not, or if it’s an interpretation dispute.”
To iron out disagreements on interpretations, Petruff recommended the commission look at “how can we make these words say what we want them to say. That would be a good result from the exercise.”
The study also will help determine if there’s been a building department mistake and, if so, whether variances or code changes are necessary, she said.
It can also build a database of non-conformities so the city “will know where the problems are” and “tighten up the code where we can to make sure our citizens don’t bear the burden,” Petruff added.
It’s a matter of interpretation, say builders and developers of properties in the spotlight due to recent criticisms of the Holmes Beach building practices.
They also say their projects have been properly approved.
Shawn Kaleta, principal in Beach to Bay Construction and Investments and the contractor of the 308 and 310 68th St. development, wrote in a recent email that these structures were attached by a city-approved common footer, and that both units together qualified for one 20-foot front-yard setback at the corner of 68th Street and Palm Drive, with 10-foot setbacks allowed on the other sides.
More than 20 structures with such setbacks have been permitted in the city, according to Kaleta.
As to the 2803 Ave. E and 203 N. Harbor properties, he wrote, “Since the elevator is considered one living level, it can go up three floors as long as it’s not in the 10-foot setback.”
The elevator interpretation “has been common in Holmes Beach,” he continued.
With respect to 5311 Sunrise Lane, Frank Agnelli of Agnelli Pools & Construction had no comment, except to say, “Everything is on file with the city.”
Bimini Bay Construction, identified by the city as the licensed contractor for 405 and 407 74th St., is reportedly no longer in business.
As of press time, The Islander was unable to reach Scott Eason of Beach to Bay Construction, identified by the city as the 307 66th St. contractor, for comment.
Homes at 5311 Sunrise Lane; 203 N. Harbor; 207 N. Harbor; 305 56th St.; 307 66th St.; 405 and 407 74th St.; 2803 Ave. E; and 308 and 310 68th St. are on a list for Holmes Beach city planner Bill Brisson to select from as he estimates costs of a possible citywide building-practices study. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell