For the second time in the past two weeks, Anna Maria commissioners voted to reverse an earlier decision.
The latest change of heart came at the Feb. 21 work session, when commissioners voted 3-2 to allow those single-family home projects considered “in the pipeline” to proceed to file for a building permit.
The commission had originally allowed projects already in the pipeline to continue through the permit process when it passed an administrative moratorium on new construction three weeks ago.
They then changed direction at their Feb. 7 meeting and halted issuance of all building permits while the moratorium ordinance moves forward. The moratorium will halt construction while the commission decides to either lower the maximum height of a single-family home from 37 feet to a lower number, or accomplishes changes to the code to prevent large rental homes from being built.
But a number of property owners came forward at the Feb.14 and Feb. 21 meetings to claim a financial hardship existed because of the halt to projects in the pipeline. Several, including Bill and Cathy Adams of Plant City, said they were just about ready to submit their building plans for a permit when the commission stopped them from proceeding. The Adams’ and others claimed the city should not change its rules in the middle of the process.
Attorney Scott Rudacille of Blalock and Walters, P.A., of Bradenton, said he represents six property owners in the pipeline who are affected by the halt.
He told commissioners his clients were building single-family homes that were “not the type of houses you are trying to control.”
Commissioners have said the moratorium will allow them a “time out” to establish an ordinance to lower the height of new construction from the present 37 foot limit. Commissioner Chuck Webb and others have expressed concern that big box-like homes will ruin the character of Anna Maria.
Several residents, including Jill Morris, said the commission has already back-tracked once, and should stand by its decision to halt building permits.
Webb and Commissioner Nancy Yetter agreed.
At some point, everyone faces a hardship, Yetter said.
Yetter said the commission cannot keep changing its mind, and the administrative moratorium gives the city a “time out” while it reviews the height ordinance and decides if it should be lowered.
Commissioner Dale Woodland said the sooner the commission “fast-tracks the height ordinance,” the sooner it would be better for everyone. However, he favored lifting the restriction on issuing permits to those already in the pipeline.
The administrative moratorium halts only those single-family homes that exceed the 27-foot height limit. Any home permit application under that height is not affected, city planner Alan Garrett said.
Building official Bob Welch said he personally knew 12 of the 15 people who were planning to apply for a building permit. To his knowledge, he said, none were planning what might be considered a big-box home.
Commission Chair John Quam said that if the commission were to lift the halt on those applicants in the pipeline, Welch should establish guidelines of what an applicant should provide to demonstrate significant expenditures to date before considering a permit.
Welch agreed to require canceled checks, documented plans and other signs the applicant has made significant expenditures before issuing a permit.
Webb, who opposed issuing permits, said he favored an exception for those people who had applied to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for a permit to build seaward of the coastal construction control line. The CCCL is that area seaward of a DEP line that approximates Gulf Drive.
Webb also suggested some people might provide false documentation to Welch but a DEP letter would eliminate any questions as to applicants being in the pipeline.
Welch confirmed most of the 15 identified projects in the pipeline were not seaward of CCCL.
The subdivision planned at the former Villa Rosa property on South Bay Boulevard was not included in the discussion, Welch said. He said it would be addressed at a later date.
Welch said he would review each of the 15 pipeline projects and documentation with city attorney Jim Dye. Additionally, Welch will prepare a document for the applicant to attest that all the facts and evidence presented are true and correct and the applicant is not falsifying any information.
Welch said he hoped to have the administrative rules for what constitutes “in the pipeline” ready this week. He will not issue any building permit until Dye has reviewed the rules and affidavit.
The motion to allow single-family homes already in the pipeline as established by Welch and Dye passed 3-2, with Webb and Yetter voting against the motion. Commissioners Quam, Aubry and Woodland voted in favor.
In other business, commissioners viewed a number of small scale models of single-family homes prepared by Aubry that could be built if the city establishes a living area to lot size ratio of 45 percent.
The home sizes would vary by lot size. A house on a 5,000 square-foot lot could build the first floor of living space to 1,507 square feet, with the second floor of living space at 743 square feet, Garret said. The total square footage of living space would be 2,250 square feet, which is 45 percent of the lot size.
Aubry said his models were examples of what could be done with new construction.
Commissioners got into a lengthy discussion to define living area.
Woodland asked if decks and patios should be included in living space, and if the roof overhang would be part of what they termed living area.
Commissioners discussed including air conditioned space and under roof space. Discussion focused on encouraging porches by excluding them from the living area.
Webb said livable space should be what is air conditioned.
After much discussion among commissioners, Garrett said he needed the commission to define the living area. There appeared to be a consensus that some property owners would maximize air conditioned space and forego porches if they were included in the defined living area allowed for the lot size.
Quam agreed. He placed discussion of floor area ratio and LAR on the agenda of a future work session.
The commission’s next regular meeting is 6 p.m. Feb. 28, at the Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.