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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Holmes Beach considers residential landscaping site plan

Stung by the apparent decline in "greenery" in Holmes Beach, the city's parks and beautification committee has begun preparing a landscaping site plan ordinance that would affect all new single-family homes and duplexes and remodeling of such structures.

The city's current landscape ordinance requires a landscaping site plan only for major projects, and excludes single-family homes and duplexes. The only vegetative landscaping requirement for new single-family homes and duplexes is to provide six small bushes and two trees. Once a certificate of occupancy is issued, those bushes and trees could die or even be removed, Building Official Bill Saunders noted, and that's a code enforcement issue.

Member Debbie Heger showed pictures of properties, mostly rental duplexes, where all the shrubbery and grass had been removed and replaced with just rocks.

Exactly the problem, said Saunders. Owners of such units want minimal maintenance costs, and the answer is a rock yard and garden. Some properties, he said, may not be fulfilling the basic landscaping requirement of six shrubs and two trees after getting a certificate of occupancy, and that's back to code enforcement.

Saunders agreed with the committee that the current code on landscaping is "fragmented."

As an example, the current 12-unit condominium project on the six lots formerly occupied by the Christian Science Church on Marina Drive does not have to submit a landscaping site plan, although the developers have indicated extensive landscaping in their advertising. Those lots are zoned for single-family homes or duplexes, and the development does not have to submit a landscaping site plan under the current ordinance.

At the same time, however, the proposed condominium project where the Holmes Beach Marina is located will have to provide a landscaping site plan because it plans to build nine units on a single lot.

Members also discussed the removal of trees on private property, but Public Works Director Joe Duennes pointed out that there is no permit required by a homeowner to remove a tree on his or her property, and no replacement required.

The committee is also concerned about water conservation and Heger presented a Sarasota County ordinance for water conservation for new homes and construction. She would like any new landscaping site-plan ordinance to tie in with water conservation.

Committee Chairman Jim Gloth suggested members write down what they would like included in a landscaping site-plan ordinance for new homes, duplexes and remodeling projects, and bring those to the August meeting.

Once the committee has prepared a draft ordinance, it will present it to the city commission as a recommendation.

The commission would have to review such an ordinance and hold public hearings before it could be passed into the municipal code.

Gloth pointed out that existing homes and structures could be given educational materials on planting non-invasive and native vegetation to beautify the location, and would not fall under the landscaping site-plan ordinance.