38-foot-long dock at 715 Holly Road in Anna Maria — possibly built without a permit in the 1970s and recently renovated — can remain, provided owners reduce the length to 28 feet.
The odd case went before the city’s code enforcement board Oct. 17.
Building official Bob Welch said the case dates to 2010, when property owners Alan and Ann Chappell hired Wood Dock Construction Inc. to renovate the dock at the property they purchased several years earlier. The dock had fallen into disrepair, Welch said.
But the dock is a non-conforming structure. A non-conforming dock could be repaired or maintained, but a completely new dock would have to meet new city code. The permit application stated the owners would “reconstruct the dock and replace pilings as needed” and made no mention of replacing the dock.
When Welch went looking for the original permit for the dock, he couldn’t find one.
Attorney Peter Mackey, representing the Chappells, said he believes the dock was built in the 1970s. Welch and city officials indicated that was probable.
Welch said the permit that Wood Dock applied for was to “reconstruct the dock and replace pilings as needed.” Welch said he interpreted that to mean a dock repair, not a replacement structure, and he approved the permit.
Later, Wood Dock asked Welch if it could reconfigure the dock, but Welch said that would add additional area to a non-conforming structure and was not allowed under the code.
When Welch inspected the repaired dock, however, he found a new dock had been built.
Although he considered the structure non-conforming, he told Wood Dock that if the last 18 feet of the dock were removed, it could remain as a legal non-conforming structure.
“I could have viewed the dock as entirely illegal and ordered everything removed, but that was not good for everyone, so I allowed what was the maximum non-conformity, 20 feet,” Welch said.
“I was trying to be generous without hurting anyone too badly.”
The Chappells, however, declined to remove 18 feet of the dock.
That brought in code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon, who cited the Chappells for violating city code. When the Chappells failed to bring the dock into compliance after being given several notices, Rathvon said she had to bring the violation to the code board.
“That’s why we’re here,” Welch said. “They don’t want to take off 18 feet. If they did, it would comply.”
Board chair Bill Iseman asked Welch if he would have approved an application that had the word “replacement” in it. Welch responded he could not, because a replacement dock could only be 13 feet long under present city code.
Mackey argued that the code allows rotting parts of any dock to be replaced, and the approved application said Wood Dock would “reconstruct the dock and replace pilings as needed.” Nothing was done that was not in the original permit, Mackey said.
“The city is hung up on the fact that most, if not all of the dock has been replaced,” Mackey said. “But I say ‘who cares’ because the code doesn’t prohibit repair as long as you don’t change the footprint.”
Mackey said the permit was legal and the Chappells were “perfectly within their rights” to replace the pilings “as needed.”
Iseman and a majority of board members agreed that it appeared the dock was replaced, not repaired, but Dye then asked for a 10-minute recess before the board proceeded with a formal vote.
When the hearing continued, Dye said he and Mackey agreed that if the last 10 feet of the 38-foot-long dock is removed, the city would consider it a legal, non-conforming structure.
Removing 10 feet would bring the dock back to the riparian rights line, Dye said.
“It’s a win, win solution for everyone,” he said.
Iseman and the board agreed to continue the case to the board’s Nov. 14 meeting. The Chappells will use the time to remove 10 feet of the dock, and Rathvon will advise the board at the meeting if the dock complies with the agreed length.