Structures such as church steeples will soon have to answer to a higher power: town code.
The changes were needed, town planner Ric Hartman said, to clarify height limits in both the town code and its Comprehensive Plan.
Although an additional 10-foot height limit is already in the code for parapet walls and other rooftop structures, there is no height limit currently provided for church steeples, church spires and any other structures that are built on top of a roof for aesthetic reasons.
The only change requested by Mayor Jim Brown was the elimination of the 10-foot height restriction for the parapet walls.
In its place, Brown and the rest of the commission asked staff to make a change that eliminates the height limit for the parapet walls and instead allows them to be no higher than 3 feet above a structure’s roof.
“Every other community in the country has its code written that way,” said Brown, who is an architect. “Parapet wall heights, in my experience, should not count for height in buildings unless they exceed 3 feet. If not, buildings could be taller than they really need to be.”
Staff must review Brown’s suggestion before it comes back to commissioners for first reading and public hearing.
The Planning and Zoning Board previously recommended the town approve the changes, which mostly affect height restrictions for churches.
The changes establish height regulations for structures such as church steeples to be no higher than 10 feet above the current zoning district height.
Applicants, though, can be granted additional height for structures such as steeples or church spires through a site-plan approval process.
Current churches on the island, though, will not be affected by the changes, and their heights will be grandfathered.
Currently, the highest steeple on the Key is Longboat Island Chapel at 67 feet high, when calculated from ground level. All Angels by the Sea Episcopal Church has the smallest steeple at 40 feet from ground level.