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Date of Issue: July 29, 2009

AM P&Z suggests minimal duplex expansion

Charged by the Anna Maria City Commission with the vexing problem of what to do with the estimated 65 duplexes in Anna Maria that became non-conforming when the city eliminated the Residential-2 zone, the planning and zoning board at its July 21 meeting offered some suggestions.

Board chairman Doug Copeland noted the considerable opposition among city residents to allowing duplex expansion, but most opponents, he said, appear to have envisioned expansion that would involve the addition of bedrooms that would amount to an increase in occupancy.

Board members were adamantly opposed to allowing duplex expansion to include an additional bedroom or bathroom while focusing their concerns on overall square footage.

The board agreed that any expansion should only be permitted one time for a duplex.

Board members agreed to have city planner Alan Garrett take the following suggestions to the commission:

• Allow expansion of each duplex unit that is less than the city minimum of 900 square feet of livable space to expand to that size, but not larger.

• Allow owners of duplex units already 900 square feet in size to expand the ground floor a maximum of 250 square feet if the duplex is on a 5,000-square-foot lot and 300 square feet if the duplex is on a 7,500-square-foot lot.

• Upward expansion would be discouraged and duplex owners considering such expansion should be advised of the considerable additional cost. Any upward expansion would be limited to 250 square feet.

• Additions of bedrooms or bathrooms would be prohibited.

• Any duplex expansion would be on a “one-time” basis.

Resident Mike Coleman said that providing duplex owners with a small opportunity to expand was the “smart thing to do.”

If duplexes don’t survive in Anna Maria, the city will end up with nothing but “big homes,” he predicted.

Building official Bob Welch said that the alternative to allowing some expansion is that duplex owners could simply tear down a ground-level duplex and build an elevated home.

 Because Anna Maria is in a flood plain, the Federal Emergency Management Administration requires that new home construction, or replacement of ground-level homes and duplexes, be elevated structures, usually two stories of living space over parking.

 Welch said duplexes and houses re-built to FEMA standards will only add to the “trophy-home” look that is beginning to appear in the city.

Allowing some duplex expansion keeps the one-story, small-home look in the city, board member Sandy Mattick said. A 250-square-foot addition with no ability to add a bedroom or bathroom is “not much expansion,” she said.

Coleman said duplexes attract retirees and young families who are looking to keep their housing costs down. Duplexes are affordable housing in Anna Maria, he said.

And these minimal allowances may keep duplex owners from building new homes that must conform to FEMA rules, Coleman maintained.

“We don’t have to bow down to FEMA,” he said.

Copeland agreed.

The P&Z suggestions allow the commission “wiggle room” with duplex owners, and will help prevent future duplex expansion from having to meet FEMA standards.

But these are only suggestions and not recommendations to the commission, Copeland observed. The commission only asked for suggestions as talking points and has made no decision on duplex expansion.

Garrett said he would bring the suggestions to the commission’s attention at its Aug. 13 work session.


Public opposition to duplex expansion

The Anna Maria City Commission may have its hands full when it discusses duplex expansion at its Aug. 13 work session.

Former City Commissioner Duke Miller said he has concerns that some commissioners believe that 65 duplexes in the city is “not a big deal.”

He also wondered why some commissioners are “pushing for expansion of duplexes,” when they approved the 2007 comprehensive plan that eliminated the Residential-2 zone.

Miller said the commission needs to be reminded to “preserve our way of life, not make our city bigger, more ugly and more crowded.”

He said the ordinance that prohibits expansion of non-conforming structures should remain as it is.

Resident Kathie Rieder was against any “one-time” expansion, claiming it would “open the door to future larger and more commercial properties.”

Anna Maria already has too many rental properties such as homes, duplexes and motels, she indicated.

Rieder urged the commission to “be the people that stop another extinction of a once loved value. Be the people that stop money hungry investors/developers from overtaking, manipulating and destroying Anna Maria.”

A number of other residents have written letters to the commission indicating they do not support duplex expansion, but believe duplexes should be allowed to rebuild or repair within the footprint of the structure.