Anna Maria commissioners passed the first reading of an ordinance designed to limit the size of homes in the future.
The ordinance, which still has some revisions to come, will limit the living area of a residence in the hope it will alleviate future problems with over-sized rental houses, some that can accommodate more people than the small motels in the city.
The ordinance, which is still being debated, limits the air-conditioned space to 40 percent of the lot size, with a maximum of 33 percent of that area allowed on the second floor of living space.
City planner Alan Garrett explained that a property owner with a 5,000-square-foot lot would be able to build a 2,000 square foot home and 33 percent, or 660 square feet, of that area could be incorporated into a second floor of living space.
It effectively reduces the the top floor of a three-story home — two floors of living space over parking — to approximately 20 by 30 feet.
As long as the total LAR does not exceed 40 percent of the lot size, such a property would be in compliance, he said.
However, commissioners disagreed on whether decks and porches should be included in the 40 percent living area — air conditioned space — or designated as part of the total floor-area ratio, commonly called FAR, or whether they should incorporate a third sliding-scale measurement based on lot size.
Commissioners hope to halt the proliferation of box-shaped mega-homes in the city with the ordinance. The idea is for those building a new home, remodeling or rebuilding to maintain the cottage-like atmosphere desired by the commission.
Commissioners Chuck Webb and Nancy Yetter were not entirely convinced that adding 5 percent to the 40 percent LAR for porches and decks was needed, but agreed to do some homework before the March 28 meeting. They plan to review some houses that appear to have large areas of porch and deck space.
“How large is too large?” Webb asked.
Mayor SueLynn noted Holmes Beach just passed a LAR of 35 percent. A 40 percent LAR would still give someone a large home, she said.
Some members of the audience appeared to be disgruntled at the slow pace of the commission on determining the FAR-LAR ordinance.
An administrative moratorium remains in place until the commission can adopt the ordinance. The FAR-LAR limits, however, will not limit buildings to the 27-foot height that was originally discussed as the purpose for the moratorium.
Several property owners said they are in limbo, waiting on the new ordinance.
Robert Lewis, who owns a rental property in the city, said the first thing developers will do is look for loopholes in the ordinance.
Property owner John Cagnina said he has five vacant lots in the city and the proposed ordinance would take away value compared to what he could build under the present ordinance. He said the commission was “embracing a socialistic attitude” and that he could likely win a lawsuit if he chose that path.
Tom Turner, chair of the P&Z board, said everyone is presenting their pet peeve. He suggested the commission allow the P&Z to re-examine the LAR and FAR requirements.
But Commissioner Gene Aubry said the city has delayed too long. He’s tired of talking about a 40 percent or 45 percent living-area-to-lot-size ratio.
“Just adopt one and let’s get moving. We had a 45 percent ratio a month ago and now we’re down to 40. Let’s get moving,” he said.
But commissioners could not agree on the limits for porches, decks and overhangs.
Commission Chair John Quam suggested the P&Z look at preserving ground-floor homes along with discussion of porch and deck coverage. Garrett agreed, saying he wants at least one more work session before the second reading of the ordinance.
In other matters, Quam said it’s time for public comment to return to its original intent: public comment. He said he will not allow debate during comment time, and he will limit speakers to 3 minutes. People can always talk to staff during the day or contact a commissioner directly.
The P&Z board will meet April 2, while the second reading of the LAR ordinance is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, April 4. The commission next meets March 28 at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.