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Date of Issue: May 20, 2009

Long-standing Anna Maria structure issues head to P&Z

The Anna Maria City Commission had a good solution to a number of issues presented at its May 14 meeting by city planner Alan Garrett. Send them to the planning and zoning board for study.

 Garrett's first problem was one that has been in Anna Maria almost as long as the parking issue, but has become prominent since new Federal Emergency Management Agency rules that require new construction to be two-stories over parking.

New homes in the city are looking like “boxes” according to Garrett and some members of the city commission, and when built next to older single-story cottages, can eliminate one’s view, in addition to creating the box effect.

 Garrett’s solution is for the commission to adopt a “floor area ratio” in the land-development regulations for new homes to determine the starting base floor area for the house. Once the FAR is established, the commission can provide incentives in the ordinance for contractors to construct a house that is compatible with Anna Maria-style housing.

With incentives, the contractor would be able to add additional floor space. Otherwise, a builder would be limited to the base FAR.

 Garrett's FAR ratio is the gross floor area divided by the lot area. The starting ratio would be .5, but with incentives, contractors could get up to a .7 ratio.

 “Our code does not regulate the structure. The commission is concerned that the image of the city is changing and we are getting more ‘boxes’ as houses,” Garrett added.

The floor area ratio concept is a way to “scale back the overall size and encourage architectural details that break up the map of the home,” he said.

Hold on a minute, implied Commissioner Dale Woodland.

“I don't like box houses, but they are legal,” he said.

 Woodland suggested that the city is “trying to legislate likes and dislikes, and that's a nightmare. We need a clear definition of what we are trying to solve.”

 Commissioner Christine Tollette also had a problem with the proposal.

 “This gets very complicated,” when the city tries to tell someone what they can build,” she said. Tollette would prefer that the building official just offer suggestions to make a home fit better in the community.

But Commissioner Chuck Webb said that every week someone comes to him about a new house under construction and says, “Did you see what they put up? What are you going to do about it?”

The problem is that the city does not want to regulate architecture, but some people’s ideas of a new house “are not consistent with our community,” Webb said. “If we stick our heads in the sand, we are not going to solve the problem.”

 Commission Chairman John Quam agreed, noting a recent Gulffront home that was built that blocked the Gulf view of some residents.

“I would like to take [Garrett’s] suggestion and see what the planning and zoning board has to say,” Quam said.

 Commissioners unanimously agreed to have the P&Z board examine the issue and make a recommendation on how to advise people to build homes that are compatible with the Anna Maria community.

But Garrett had another problem for the commission.

The city’s land-development regulations on non-conforming structures currently prohibit the addition of more habitable living space or re-roofing because of the
“intensity and density” clause.

The city created a number of non-conforming homes when it changed the density per acre from 7 to 6 in the 2007 comprehensive plan, he said, but it was not the city's intent to create so many non-conforming structures.

 Remove that clause and owners of non-conformities have a lot more room to build, remodel and maintain their homes, he said.

Not so, said Webb. “We need this in there. Without it, we have a lot of structures subject to code enforcement.”

But 80 percent of the homes in the city are now non-conforming, replied Garrett.

City attorney Jim Dye jumped into the fray, saying he was not sure how a “use can be too intense” and he's not sure if the city can say “the use is too dense.”

 Webb noted that he, the commission and Dye have “run into another case where an Anna Maria code doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

 Garrett said he wouldn't disagree with that statement.

Dye noted also there are a lot of phrases in the LDR that are “open to litigation” such as “incidental alterations.”

 Commissioners agreed and decided it would be better to send the non-conforming use and non-conforming structure issue to the planning and zoning board to tighten up the language and make recommendations.

The P&Z board was scheduled to meet May 19.


 Mayor Fran Barford asked for commission approval to seek an interlocal agreement with Holmes Beach and Manatee County regarding the waterways around the city.

The problem is who has jurisdiction. The city’s limit is the water, while other jurisdictions have extended their limits into the water. The issue surfaced in a recent code enforcement case where the city found it did not have jurisdiction over docks, just the part of the dock that was on the land.

At present, a property owner who wants to build a dock needs both a city and county permit.

Another point of discussion is which city should have jurisdiction over Bimini Bay, or should it fall to Manatee County.

 Barford noted that the recent variance request by a homeowner on Blue Heron Drive to build a dock out into the water has been withdrawn. The city learned that it does not have jurisdiction over those waters and the applicant has to apply to Manatee County for the variance.

An interlocal agreement will establish clearly areas of jurisdiction.

Commissioners authorized Barford to pursue the agreement.

Community Center

Commissioners also received an update on the Anna Maria Island Community Center from its board chairman, Tom Breiter.

Breiter said its no secret that non-profits are having a difficult time in the current economy. He said the board is looking for five more members who are “talented and dedicated.”

One of the goals of the board is to work with city commissions on the Island to gain input for funding sources, planning, programs and ideas.