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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022 1 week ago

Longboat Key plans to allow permanently installed fire pits

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A new proposal seeks to allow town-issued permitting for fire pits outside of structures.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Jane Herrin sees a common problem these days when developers seek to build gas fire pits outside of their residential structures.

With no rules on the town's books to cover the newly trendy outdoor-living features, Herrin, a Longboat Key assistant fire chief and the town's fire marshal, said she often has no choice.

“The last several developments have (come) in with fire pits on their facilities — St. Regis, Sage, all these new developments — and I’ve had to deny them,” she said.

So, she told the Town Commission, permitting considerations for the propane and natural gas fire pits need to be established to build them in such places as yards, patios and pool decks.

Longboat Key Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Jane Herrin spoke before the Town Commission on Monday to discuss proposed changes to the Town Code about the permitting process for permanently-installed fire pits.

“I felt with these other facilities coming in, we needed to modify this to make it happen,” Herrin said.

It’s something the Town Commission will consider changing after approving the first reading of an ordinance that would add the following to section Section 96.11 of the Town Code:

“Outside gas fueled fire pit equipment that is permanently installed in accordance with applicable Florida and National Fire Codes and manufacturer’s instructions shall be permitted. A permit from the Town of Longboat Key for natural or propane gas installation shall be required for any permanently installed fire pit.”

The fire marshal and building official are responsible to review and approve plans for permitting. They are also responsible for inspections once work on the fire pits begins.

The existing Town Code states open fires are prohibited in Longboat Key with a few exceptions:

  • Open fires for the cooking of food for human consumption on other than commercial premises.
  • Fires to abate a fire hazard, providing the hazard is so declared by the fire department.
  • Fires for the prevention or control of disease or pests.
  • Fires for training personnel in the methods of fighting fires.
  • Fires for the disposal of dangerous materials, where there is no alternate method of disposal and burning is approved by the town manager.

Herrin said several fire pits have popped around town at restaurants and condo developments. 

Many times, the fire pits are installed throughout Longboat Key by contractors without a town-issued permit, according to Town Manager Tom Harmer.

“We’d have to look at each of the individual cases to make sure that they were safe and all that will be handled by (Planning, Zoning and Building Director) Allen (Parsons) and the building official and the fire marshal,” Harmer said.

The proposal is now subject to second reading and Town Commission approval on Feb. 7.

“I hope people utilize the permit aspect before they go and start doing it themselves,” Herrin said of the proposed changes.

If approved, Herrin explained what the town will look for when a developer applies for a permit to build a fire pit.

“What we’re going to look at is setbacks, what their application is, what type of pit they’re using, what type of appliances they're using, where they’re tapping in at and then pressure testing those lines,” Herrin said.

Herrin said she anticipates receiving many permits for fire pits given the Town Commission’s likely approval next month.

On Monday, commissioners voted 6-0 in support of the measure during its first reading.

“I think we all know that it’s happening all over the country,” Herrin said. “These fire pits come in, and the fact that it doesn’t produce smoke, so there’s not that health issue.

“And I thought it was more appropriate for Longboat Key to go this route.”

Herrin said the proposed changes won’t cost developers time and money to reconfigure their plans, which is often necessary given the existing Town Code.

“They understand because you send them the vocabulary out of it and didn’t give me any leeway,” Herrin said. “I mean, I felt bad about it as well.

“That’s why I just stepped up and decided I would go take this opportunity to change the code.”

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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