Holmes Beach puts halt on private appraisals for remodels

Looking to eliminate private appraisals that regulate rehabs from the city’s land development code, Holmes Beach commissioners directed their city attorney to begin drafting a new ordinance based on Manatee County property appraiser’s values.

    Private appraisals are part of the city’s land development code that implements the Florida building code and Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations, including what is commonly called the 50 percent rule.

    If an owner seeking to remodel a ground-level home chooses not to elevate the first floor of living area, the rule restricts substantial improvements to less than 50 percent per year based on the structure’s value.

    According to city code, value is determined either by an independent certified appraisal, actual cash value or adjusted tax-assessment, as well as the owner’s and contractor affidavits attesting to project costs.

    Though not present at the Jan. 31 work session, city attorney Patricia Petruff advised the commissioners on the issue in a Jan. 30 email.

    She recommended the commission delete the option that allows independent appraisal determinations of market value, “and instead rely upon the property appraiser’s value of the structure plus a percentage in the range of 15-20 percent.”

    For homesteaded properties, Petruff said a county database may be available to rectify artificially low market values due to the 3 percent homestead cap, and suggested the commission consider using “that value for homesteaded structures, plus the agreed upon percentage.”

    Another way to determine market value is by sales price, building inspector Tom O’Brien told commissioners.

    Mayor Carmel Monti said the appraisal issue is relevant to all zones and recommended a uniform process be established.

    The market value determination for rehabs was one of the commission-identified objectives to lift the Residential-2 building moratorium enacted Dec. 25 by the commission, although determining values will be applicable to all districts.

    With the moratorium in place, commissioners plan to revamp city building laws and policies to discourage large homes and encourage old Florida-style development.

    Commissioner Marvin Grossman questioned past rehabs based on independent appraisals, and favored the county appraiser value as a way to achieve a consistency.

    O’Brien agreed, “I think the approach of using another source to determine this — instead of having to argue with someone at the counter — makes our job easier. It makes it more consistent from one person to the next.”

    Since being hired in December, O’Brien has sought to clarify the city’s implementation of rehab rules.

    O’Brien says he disagrees with past building official decisions on substantial improvements. In a December report, he told commissioners that major structural replacements, such as major portions of a roof or exterior walls, are substantial improvements regardless of the cost.

    Commissioner David Zaccagnino agreed with the mayor that a new comprehensive process should be put in place.

    “I have confidence in the building department that they will come up with something so everybody in all districts are on the same page, and that all the builders know,” he said.

    Commissioner Judy Titsworth asked whether the city has the authority to allow people to remodel over a period, referencing a rule that prohibits additional improvements within a calendar year after a remodeling project is permitted.

    “What if the previous owners have maxed out on the 50 percent?” Titsworth asked.

        O’Brien said he’d research that question, adding that, “I believe the city’s policy has been and continues to be a one-year cycle.”

… and works to eliminate duplex divide

By Kathy Prucnell

Islander Reporter

    The Holmes Beach City Commission — with the exception of one commissioner — agreed to direct its planner to begin drafting an ordinance that will eliminate the separation of duplex units by underground footers.

    With city planner Bill Brisson present at their Jan. 31 work session, commissioners discussed changes that will instead require a party wall joining two-family dwellings, as well as related setbacks in the Residential-2 zone.

    Following a lengthy discussion on setbacks — which the commission decided not to change — Commission Chair Jean Peelen directed Brisson to draft an ordinance to stop underground or above ground connections between duplex units and grandfather properties where one of the two units already has been permitted.

    Brisson provided commissioners with a Jan. 18 memorandum on the proposed code changes.

    Peelen asked Brisson to clarify proposed regulations on existing two-family dwellings separated by a footer or other means to eliminate the impression the city will permit them in the future.

    Commissioner David Zaccagnino disagreed with the commission’s direction, saying, “Two separate small buildings are much more attractive than if we force people to put them together.”

    “We’re going to have one massive building instead of two smaller ones that will be landscaped and buffered a lot better. Because of FEMA regulations, they’re going to go up,” he said.

    Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, formerly mayor of the city, told commissioners the interpretation changed to allow the underground separation during her term.

    “(Building official) Bill Saunders started it probably in 2006 just before I left,” she said.

    Whitmore continued, “He met with a local builder here. We all know the person. He’s been around here as long as I can remember. They had a cup of coffee one day. Because the houses were starting to look like big houses, because everyone was trying to get the biggest house possible, this guy decided to go with the single-foundation thing.”

    Whitmore encouraged the city to find ways to allow builders and owners to be creative, and to discourage building larger structures.

    Resident architect Terry Parker suggested staggered front- and rear-yard setbacks to avoid the massive appearance of residential structures.

    Building code and policy changes are expected to continue before the commission lifts the building moratorium, which is set to expire June 25.

        The commission next meets at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

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