Holmes Beach city commissioners — who have debated, studied and set the foundation for a building moratorium in the Residential-2 district for the past year — some even before they took office, made it official Jan. 8.
The moratorium is retroactive to Dec. 25, 2012.
A motion by Commissioner Pat Morton, seconded by Commissioner Judy Titsworth imposed a moratorium, halting new permits for construction, demolition and substantial rebuilds for up to six months in the city’s duplex district.
Exceptions to the moratorium are “interior demolition for purposes such as remodeling” and “maintenance of existing houses which does not result in total demolition, such as replacement of siding or windows.”
In a 4-1 vote, Commission Chair Jean Peelen and Commissioner Marvin Grossman joined Titsworth and Morton in favor and Commissioner David Zaccagnino dissented.
Zaccagnino spoke against the moratorium, first questioning why the land development code’s definition of substantial improvement — the limit to which a residence can be remodeled during the moratorium — hadn’t been checked out with the state.
Peelen answered that for the purposes of the moratorium, the definition would remain the same as presently stated in the city code.
He responded that builders would remain uncertain about what constitutes a substantial improvement.
The purpose of the moratorium, according to city attorney Patricia Petruff, is to avoid a deluge of permit applications while the commission sets new laws or puts policies in place.
Before asking Petruff to draft the moratorium, the commission had tasked city planner Bill Brisson in August to study oversized dwellings and associated problems in the R-2 district. This action came after residents packed commission meetings a year ago, complaining about noise, parking, trash, garbage and overdevelopment in the district.
In the past year, the commission assigned focus groups to study issues of building and zoning, rentals agents, code enforcement and administrative licensing. Citizens and commissioners brainstormed, produced reports, requested records and debated solutions.
Brisson issued reports in September and December that supported the city’s R-2 development trending toward larger homes since 2009, and concluded they were out of character for the beach community.
Before the vote, Holmes Beach property owner and past-resident Joe Kennedy, now residing in Bradenton, commented on the moratorium.
Kennedy said Brisson’s study did not provide evidence to support the moratorium.
“There is not any evidence, statistical or otherwise given to show a larger dwelling unit creates more problems than a smaller dwelling unit, even though a larger dwelling unit may in fact house more people,” Kennedy said.
He criticized the city for not conducting traffic studies, noise surveys, or providing evidence of illegal vacation rentals, parking problems or trash citations.
Kennedy owns a vacant lot suitable for a single-family home in R-2, and began requesting public records and sending letters to commissioners when the December sale of his property fell through due to the anticipated moratorium.
Zaccagnino also read a letter from resident Keith Carter, which, he said, summed up his position.
Carter said owners will be discouraged by the new restrictions from remodeling, and encouraged to tear down existing ground-level homes to rebuild as multi-story units.
McKeever also read his comments into the record.
He said contractors who came to previous meetings to object to the moratorium failed to recognize conventional remodeling or districts other than R-2 as options for their businesses.
“Now we’re exploring remedies to other problems that these carpetbaggers have foisted on us — things such as two pools on one lot,” said McKeever. “Why not? We have two houses on one lot. Except we ridiculously call them duplexes because of an absurd technicality.
“And have you noticed how many of the people who own these things or plan to build them have unusual names? They all seem to end in LLC.”
For more on building limitations, including pools, docks and living-area ratio as planned by the Holmes Beach commission, go online at www.islander.org.
Holmes Beach looks to change future building
With the controversial Holmes Beach building moratorium imposed, it allows up to six months for the city commission to enact changes in the Residential-2 zone. And, there’s already a smorgasbord of proposed changes on the plates of city commissioners, officials, the planner and attorney, including:
- A living-area ratio ordinance expected to impose a .34 LAR for new construction and substantial remodels. The new ordinance has been drafted to change the land development code to restrict the square footage of homes in proportion to lot sizes. Non-air-conditioned spaces, including a garage, patio, balcony, porch and terrace, will not be included in calculating LAR. It is set for a final commission vote Jan. 22.
- A one-pool-per lot rule. Commissioners are expected to review land development code amendments Jan. 17 to limit the construction of one pool for each city lot. Staff is researching possible exceptions.
- Dock setback rules in line with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, but considerate of prior rules in some areas. The commission is expected to hear the first reading on the new ordinance Jan. 22.
- Business tax restrictions. Legal opinions are expected on the subject of tying compliance to city and state building codes to future issuance of business receipts to rental properties. Commissioner Judy Titsworth suggested Jan. 8 that the occupancy requirement also be considered.
- Two building department policies on corner lots and elevator shafts. They are expected to be written by building inspector Tom O’Brien and reviewed at future commission meeting.