Holmes Beach primed to adopt R-2 zone LAR ordinance

A living-area ratio limit is on the threshold of regulating future building in the Holmes Beach rental district.

It was set for a city commission vote Jan. 22 following a final reading at a public hearing — after press time for The Islander. The hearing will be at 7 p.m. at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

The commission had approved ordinance on first reading Dec. 18, and sent it to the planning commission to determine if it was consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

A unanimous vote of the planning commission Jan. 9 found the proposed ordinance to restrict living area to .34 of the lot size in the Residential-2 zone consistent with the comp plan.

LAR will be the city’s first building regulation directly aimed at the mass and scale of new three-story residential construction — exclusive to R-2 zoning — a problem that for the past year has been studied by commissioners, focus groups and city planner Bill Brisson.

In addition to the LAR ordinance, the planning commission recommended the city consider Brisson’s “sliding scale” of more lenient restrictions for R-2 lots on which only single-family dwellings can be built.

For lots lacking the required square footage for a duplex, Brisson proposed a sliding scale of .34 and .40 for lots between 5,000 and 7,000 square feet and a .40 recommendation for all lots smaller than 5,000 square feet.

Brisson had presented his Jan. 6 report to both commissions, a report that links increases in size and number of homes since 2009 to an emergence of a trend that is out-of-character for Holmes Beach. He concluded the LAR limits will ensure future residential development consistent with the scale and type of existing land use.

Brisson’s report also noted increases in the number of bedrooms in single-family homes and duplexes. Between 2009 and 2011, the report tallies 14 single-family homes built in R-2, seven with five or more bedrooms and two with eight bedrooms.

During the same period, of the 28 duplexes that were built, four contained five or more bedrooms.

Brisson’s report calculated .46 average LAR for single-family homes and .42 average LAR for duplexes.

Before making its recommendations Jan. 9, the planning commission held a public hearing at which two people voiced opposition to LAR.

At the first planning commission hearing, Joe Kennedy of Bradenton, an R-2 vacant lot owner, and Don Schroder of Holmes Beach spoke against the LAR ordinance.

“Brisson was hired by the city to do what they wanted him to do,” Kennedy said.

The disparity of heights can be linked to the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood restrictions, he said, adding Brisson’s report accounts for only a small increase in larger homes.

Schroder agreed with Kennedy, saying, “The number of lots are miniscule.”

“I really think you’re impinging on our personal property rights,” Schroder said, adding there should be a LAR exception “any place there are dual lots, where the second dwelling has not been built.”

Planning commission chair Sue Normand agreed with Brisson’s analysis.

“When we start to build homes not comparable with the rest of the homes, the community stands a chance of overdevelopment,” she said.

Overdevelopment impacts older homes when newer homes leave no daylight, Normand said. She recognized the FEMA restrictions and requirement “to build up,” but questioned whether “we’re building homes too large for this island to support.”

“While I’m not in favor of LAR, I don’t think there’s a way to find it noncompliance with comprehensive plan.”

Commissioner Gary Hickerson agreed, “It appears to me that the ordinance is designed for preservation.”

Commissioner Sylvia Harris said the exceptions carved out of the LAR ordinance, including garages, balconies, carports and non-air conditioned space, also are important.

Commissioner Barbara Hines said the ordinance deals with compatible usage and, as to Schroder’s view of property rights, she said zoning changes are permissible so long as they permit some use of the property.

Mayor Carmel Monti told planning commission members that their work reinforced “what we’re trying to do for the overall city.”

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