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Date of Issue: June 09, 2005

Non-conforming lots buildable, board recommends

Two 5,000-square-foot lots are buildable in Bradenton Beach, according to one advisory board, contrary to an opinion by the city's building official.

The Bradenton Beach Board of Adjustment last week unanimously agreed that two 50-by 100-foot lots in the 2200 block of Avenue A are both buildable despite the fact that 5,000-square-foot lots are considered non-conforming in the city - although 7,500 square feet or greater is required, according to sections of city code.

The issue is somewhat convoluted.

Marcia and Bob Barlow bought the two lots in 2002. A home straddled the two lots, making the property conforming to sections of the land development code that call for the 7,500-square-foot lot area.

The Barlows conferred with then-Building Official Bob Welch and received a written confirmation that the two lots upon which the house straddled were both buildable and sold one of the lots, leasing it back from new owner Donna Jarrett in order to maintain use of the house.

The Barlows demolished the home in November 2004 after ascertaining that renovations would be too costly and later applied for a building permit for the lot they retained. The permit was denied by current Building Official Ed Mc Adam, who cited a section of the land development code that states in part:

"A single-family structure may be constructed on any non-conforming lot of record, existing as of July 24, 1990, [in residential districts] provided, however, that the owner of such lot does not own any adjacent vacant land which would create a conforming lot."

Mc Adam contended that since there once had been a conforming house, the demolition made the property non-conforming.

Barlows' attorney, Robert Hendrickson said that the lot sale to Jarrett was contingent on a previous building official's opinion. In addition, he said, his interpretation of the city codes indicate the lots were platted in 1911 and, although non-conforming, did meet the requirements of the city codes.

Barlow was more direct in his comments.

"Where I come from, a man's word is his bond," he said, "and a municipality should follow the same. You can't change the rules. If the city's intent is to not build on 50-foot lots, then hold a public hearing and change the land development code."

Board of adjustment members agreed.

"We have two lots of record," board member John Burns said. "This does not involve a lot split. The Welch letter put the city on notice that the city commission would have to make some changes in the code. No changes were made. I believe the intent of the code is that any new subdivision would have to have 75-foot-wide lots. I think the decision of the previous building official is correct."

The other members of the board concurred and recommended the Mc Adam decision to deny the building permit was in error. The city commission will bring the matter up in July.

In other board of adjustment business, a request by Frank Bell to convert a mobile home within the Sandpiper Resort into a single-family house was denied by the board.

Bell, of lot 715 in the resort at 2601 Gulf Drive, requested the variance to essentially demolish the 45-year-old trailer and build a new home. Bell said the size of the lot - 27 feet by 44 feet - was too small for a new trailer or manufactured home contingent on setback rules within the park.

However, board members were told by Mc Adam that manufactured homes could be built to meet the small specifications, and that any variance would be contrary to Florida building codes.

"You can't build a house in a trailer park," as board member Barton Weeks put it.

The board recommended denial of the variance request for Bell to the city commission, which will also take the matter up next month.