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Holmes Beach building permits flood city, break record

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

Behind stacks of plans and applications, Holmes Beach building clerk Susan Lonzo works to control the influx of permits and other requests in the city’s building department Dec. 26, the last day to submit plans under the expected retroactive building moratorium.

The city of Holmes Beach issued the most building permits in its 62-year history as contractor applications flooded the city’s building department to meet a Dec. 26 deadline of a planned moratorium.

        As the city commission, its planner and attorney worked in December to prepare for the moratorium expected to halt new construction and substantial improvements Residential-2 district for six months, 90 applications came in for a variety of permits for 1,228 in 2012 — breaking last year’s record of 960 building applications, according to building clerk Susan Lonzo.

        Mayor Carmel Monti estimated “about 75 came in under the wire,” in the two weeks before the moratorium effective date.

        “Last year was the most ever,” said public works clerk Susan Corsi about 2011 building permits, adding that 2012 applications had surpassed 2011.

        Since Dec. 1, the submissions included applications for 20 pools, 11 erosion control permits, seven remodels and six new construction projects submitted by local contractors including Beach to Bay Construction, Ross Built Construction Co., Agnelli Pools and Construction, American Beauty, Wash Family Enterprise and Whitehead Construction, according to Lonzo.

        The vast majority of the permit applications were for R-2 zoned properties, she said.

        The R-2 district became the focus of a committee headed by Commissioner Jean Peelen, as assigned by Commission Chair David Zaccagnino last January, after residents packed the city commission meetings in late 2011 to complain about the proliferation of multi-unit homes in the district and related noise, garbage and parking problems.

        Since then, the building department has worked to keep up with inspections while fielding record requests from residents, commissioners and candidates for election, some of who criticized the department and policies under former public works superintendent Joe Duennes.

        Overdevelopment was blamed on lax interpretations of the land development code, which allowed alleged encroachments in setbacks and took in questionable affidavits and appraisals for remodeling under Federal Emergency Management Agency related rules.

        In April, Duennes disciplined then-building inspector Bob Shaffer for contractor favoritism. Shaffer was fired by Duennes and Bohnenberger in September.

        David Greene, electrical engineer and inspector, stepped in to fill Shaffer’s position, as he was in the process of receiving the necessary state certification as a plans examiner and inspector.

        Duennes left the city in November following the election of a new mayor and two new commissioners.

        Former Holmes Beach and Longboat Key building official John Fernandez was hired in June as a consultant to assist with FEMA issues, perform inspections and plan reviews for the approximately 300-375 ongoing projects.

        Monti hired architect Tom O’Brien as interim building inspector in December on a four-month contract to essentially replace Duennes in the building department, but without the public works and code enforcement responsibilities.

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