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Date of Issue: February 10, 2010

Confusion over pergolas stirs up neighborhood


The Seaside Gardens neighborhood in Holmes Beach is unlike any other Island neighborhood.

There are no land-development regulations for the Seaside Gardens area, according to Holmes Beach superintendent of public works Joe Duennes. The area is governed by a homeowner’s association, and Deunnes believes the lack of regulations have resulted in a lack of policies to indicate what is or is not allowed.

Seaside Gardens resident Stephen Evans didn’t know about the zero-setback policy. So when he saw a neighbor constructing a pergola within 20 feet of the water, he wrote a complaint about unpermitted construction to the city’s building department.

Duennes said there’s a city policy concerning a pergola, which, like a trellis, is a garden feature that forms a shaded walkway or area. The pergola must be built to be water permeable, or without a water-shedding roof. Pergolas can be constructed with lattice, or crisscross strips of wood that provide shade inside, yet allow rain to permeate.

The purpose, said Holmes Beach building inspector Bob Shaffer, is to prevent stormwater runoff. “There have been a lot of problems with feces and pollution running into tributaries,” Shaffer said. “To control runoff the city has a water-control plan.”

He said the city also has codes that dictate the footprint of a dwelling, including pergolas, cannot be more than 30 percent of the lot size.

On Jan. 21, the city building department received a letter with the signature “Bud Taylor” claiming that unpermitted construction had been taking place on Seaside Court in Seaside Gardens.

But Taylor told The Islander that Steve Evans had forged his name to the complaint letter.

Evans admitted that he forged the name, saying it was because of misunderstandings with a Seaside Gardens resident who is a city commissioner. “I thought if I signed my name, I’d get in big trouble,” Evans said.

Evans said Taylor told him that he would not press forgery charges if Evans resigned his position as a Seaside Gardens board member.

So Evans did.

“It was the right thing to do,” Evans said.

And as for the construction that initiated the complaint, Duennes said the pergola at the home of Butch Sergeant is “OK.” It’s grandfathered as a non-conforming structure.

Evans said he plans now to submit an application to construct a pergola at his Seaside Gardens home.

According to the Web site www., developer Jack Holmes created a 600-acre community in the center of Anna Maria Island at the end of World War II. The city of Holmes Beach was incorporated in 1950.

In the early 1960s, Holmes directed the construction of Seaside Gardens, according to the Web site. It is a high-density area of ground-level duplexes where units are individually owned.

Duennes said part of the reason for the Seaside Gardens neighborhood having no land development regulations and no setback policies, is because it has been around for so long.

“I don’t know if the city didn’t have regulations at the time,” Duennes said, “or if they just turned their heads. There’s no rhyme or reason to that place whatsoever. There are zero setbacks. Every time I go there I shake my head. If you move into that area, you have to make way for your neighbor and hopefully you’ll have a relationship where they make way for you.”