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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Meandering water line causes Holmes Beach concern

The Holmes Beach Planning Commission will discuss a proposed ordinance change at its March 11 meeting to modify the setback requirement for coastal development.

It seems the current requirement for coastal development of 100 feet from the mean-high-water mark creates a problem, according to Building Official Bill Saunders, who requested the commission consider the ordinance change.

"The mean-high-water mark keeps moving," said Saunders. "It's not a fixed line, but our ordinance says you will be (at a minimum) 100 feet upland of that line" for construction.

After the 2002 beach renourishment project added between 100 and 150 feet of sand to most beaches in the city, 100 feet upland of the MHWM placed a number of proposed projects seaward of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Erosion Control Line.

"And you can't build within 50 feet of that line," he said. "That's a state requirement.

"So instead of a meandering line, we can use the ECL, which is a fixed line," and eliminate a lot of confusion about where coastal projects can be located, Saunders noted.

A recent example of the problem was the Frank Davis proposal for new construction at 5622 Gulf Drive. The site plan met the city's setback requirement from the MHWM, but not the DEP's. Attorneys on both sides of the Davis case have argued for and against the city's current setback requirement compared with the ECL.

"It's just much simpler if we use the ECL for setback requirements on the coastline. That's a set line and there's no argument about where you can build," Saunders concluded.

The planning commission will meet at 7 p.m. March 11 to begin discussion of the issue. Any recommendation by the commission will be sent to the city commission for its discussion and a vote.