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Date of Issue: April 02, 2008

HB floodplain measure gets 1st reading

A flood of permit applications is expected to hit Holmes Beach’s building department when city commissioners approve a new floodplain ordinance and revoke a hold on building permits.

Their action is expected during an April 8 meeting at city hall.

The next morning, the building department is expected to begin dealing with permit applications under the new regulations.

“It’s going to be like a Miley Ray Cyrus concert,” said contractor Darrin Wash, who has been waiting to apply for a building permit for a remodeling job in the city since early February. “People will camp out.”

In February, facing concerns from the Federal Emergency Management Agency about an outdated ordinance, commissioners agreed to review and revise the ordinance that governs building in the floodplain.

The commission unanimously voted, “No application, petition or request for approval concerning floodplain management shall be granted until staff has completed its research and analysis of the regulations and the proposed legislation has been considered by the city commission.”

Commissioners put a rush on drafting a new ordinance, which was presented at the March 25 commission meeting for a first reading.

There was little discussion on the proposed measure, and general agreement to keep the process moving.

The ordinance consists of 31 pages and is expected to help improve the city’s ranking under the National Flood Insurance Program and lead to a decrease for property owners in flood insurance premiums.

The ordinance also is intended to “attempt to mitigate and prevent the cumulative effect of obstructions of floodplains causing increases in flood heights and velocities and occupancy in flood-hazard areas by uses vulnerable to floods or hazardous to other lands which are inadequately elevated, flood proof or otherwise unprotected from flood damages.”

“Go to page 2, section 2,” Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said, pointing out the definition for “substantial improvement.”

The ordinance defines substantial improvement as “any repair, reconstruction, rehabilitation or improvement of a structure when the actual cost of the improvement or repair of the structure to its pre-damage condition equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure either before the improvement or repair is started or if the structure has been damaged and is being restored, before the damage occurred.” The cost does not include nonstructural interior finishings.

Next, Haas-Martens referred commissioners to section 3 in the ordinance. “From 3 on, all the rest is new,” she said in reference to the next 29 pages.

City attorney Stephen Dye confirmed, “From section 3 on, it’s a completely new ordinance.”

Section 3 details the purpose of the ordinance - to promote public health, safety and general welfare and to minimize public and private losses due to flood conditions.

The section contains numerous definitions, from “accessory structure” to “water-surface elevation,” designates the building official as the floodplain administrator, sets the penalty for violating the ordinance at $500 a day, details the permit procedure and the construction process, lists the multiple responsibilities of the floodplain administrator and provides flood-hazard reduction rules.

Wash asked commissioners what the process might be for reviewing applications after the hold is lifted.

“We need to figure out what order permits will be given out,” he said. “Some of us have been waiting since February.”

He added that the building department “is going to be overwhelmed.”

City building official Bill Saunders said he is prohibited by code from accepting permit applications before the new ordinance is adopted.

But, Saunders vowed, “Any applications that are turned in [April 9] will be processed within 30 days.”

Haas-Martens, addressing Wash, added, “We moved as quickly as we could. Once it’s passed, we can go for it.”

In other business last week, commissioners:

  • Continued discussion on outdoor-dining rules.
  • Endorsed raising a stormwater-utility fee from $3 ERU to $4.50 ERU. (See separate story.)
  • Approved a site plan for an office building at 301 Manatee Ave. (See separate story.)

Commissioner John Monetti and Mayor Rich Bohnenberger did not attend the meeting because they were in Tallahassee for lobby days.