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Date of Issue: September 01, 2005

Anna Maria planning board recommends no more duplexes

Anna Maria's planning and zoning board agreed to recommend to the city commission elimination of the city's medium-density residential category of zoning in the proposed future land use element of the city's revised comprehensive plan.

That was the board's consensus at its Aug. 22 public meeting on the FLUE after more than two hours of debate and public input on the ramifications of such a move.

Elimination of the MDR essentially means that no new duplexes can be built in the city on lots that are less than 15,000 square feet, said P&Z board member Doug Copeland.

The board backed away from specific language in the FLUE that would address eliminating duplexes.

Comp plan facilitator Tony Arrant pointed out that the proposed FLUE language "does not prohibit duplexes." It only specifies a maximum density of six units per acre, and the lot size of each unit must be a minimum of 7,500 square feet. A duplex could still be built, but the owner would need two adjoining 7,500 square-foot lots.

"If you do not want duplexes, put it in the plan," he advised.

While regulation of duplexes if usually found in a city's land development regulations, he said, some cities have opted to put restrictions on duplexes in their comp plans because that's "harder to change" than a city code.

He suggested the board write what people can do, rather than state what they can't do.

Board member Randall Stover said the maximum density per acre should be 5.8 because that's how many lots of 7,500 square feet one acre can contain. Arrant replied it was easier to legislate a maximum of six units per acre.

The board got hung up on lot size and zoning issues related to the FLUE and P&Z board chairman Chris Collins reminded members that these issues could be dealt with at a continuation of the meeting, or by changes in the LDR.

Building Official Kevin Donohue noted that the comp plan generally sets "parameters," while the codes "can be more restrictive."

Agreed, said Arrant. The city's LDR might set a maximum of three units per acre.

"Let's go forward," said board member Fran Barford. "The board can revisit the issue of the actual density per acre at a continuation of the public hearing."

Some members of the public supported elimination of the MDR, and resident Robin Wall agreed, only if there is "clear language" that grandfathers existing lots that become non-conforming because of a new comp plan.

Board member Margaret Jenkins suggested that some people depend upon income from a duplex. Copeland pointed out that those properties would be "grandfathered" under the proposed comp plan.

Resident Tara O'Brien, however, said eliminating the MDR may be "exclusionary" because the city must accommodate the need for affordable housing and a duplex may fit that need.

She requested the board "not change the medium- density residential district."

Attorney Stacey Frank, a North Shore Drive resident, asked the board to consider language in the comp plan prohibiting development of land-locked parcels with no right-of-way access.

She suggested there were several such properties in the Bean Point area, and considering the ever-increasing land values on the Island, sooner or later a developer would purchase a house fronting such a property, then buy the land-locked property. That would give that person frontage along a right-of-way and enough property size to build a subdivision right out onto Bean Point.

Those property owners are currently "land-locked" with only access from the beach, and they knew that when they purchased the property. They even have special tax dispensations because they are land-locked, she noted.

Frank said the comp plan should state that property "currently not platted and seaward of the coastal construction control line and without access to a right of way may not be developed for residential purposes" after a date certain.

Barford said she'd like a legal opinion on that request, and Frank agreed to meet with City Attorney Jim Dye to show him the case law she has on the issue.

Mayor SueLynn said Dye has already begun a review of just that problem, but welcomed the input from Frank.

In a separate public hearing, the board gave general approval to the coastal conservation, capital improvements, recreation and open space and intergovernmental coordination elements of the proposed comp plan with only minor revisions.

When the board is finished with all elements of the comp plan and FLUE, an evaluation and appraisal report will be prepared for presentation at another P&Z public hearing.

The P&Z board only makes recommendations to the city commission on the proposed comp plan. The commission must schedule further public hearings on the plan, once it's presented by the P&Z board.

The FLUE public hearing stopped just short of addressing the city's residential-office-retail district. The proposed FLUE calls for a maximum of two habitable floors in that district, with the ground floor for retail-office space.

Business owners in the ROR district along Pine Avenue are expected to protest this proposal vigorously when the board continues the public hearing on the FLUE at 7 p.m. Sept. 19.