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Longboat Key Tuesday, Sep. 15, 2020 2 months ago

Longboat revises proposed lightning-rod restrictions

Commissioners will vote on the proposal in October.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Longboat Key is planning to allow rooftop lightning rods on homes in the near future, but there would be restrictions on their height, regardless of how high the building is.

The proposal calls for the lightning rods not to exceed 6 feet on single-family or two-family homes in the R-4 and R-6 districts. The lightning rods on multi-family or commercial buildings could not exceed 16 feet.

During Monday’s virtual town commission meeting, commissioners initially considered a slightly different proposal. The initial exception would have allowed for a 1-foot exception to lightning rods higher than a home’s maximum height of 30 feet. Larger properties would have needed a special exception for lightning rods up to 6 feet.

However, the commission is now aims to limit the height of a lightning rod itself, not how it pertains to the maximum height of a home or building.

A lightning rod is pictured on top of a home on Halyard Lane in the Country Club Shores IV North neighborhood.

“The caveat is totally appropriate,”  Commissioner George Spoll said. “Anybody reading this from the outside would clearly understand that it’s 6 feet above the zoning height as an absolute maximum, as well as 6 feet above any height on the building.”

The idea is to avoid unnecessarily large lightning-protection systems on top of their home.

“What we didn’t want to have happen is have somebody who had a one-story house suddenly putting up — which would be totally ridiculous — a 10-foot pole on top of it, which would really be A). Unnecessary and B). Unsightly,” At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop said.

The town would have a grandfathering process for existing lightning rods that exceed the proposed height restrictions. Those lightning rods may remain, but any Longboat Key residents needing to replace their systems would need to abide by the current code.

For months, commissioners have considered an application from Windemuller Technical Services Vice President John Barber to allow “lightning protection systems” to be included as an exception to height regulations.

“The motion that’s on the board right now, I’m in total agreement with,” Barber said.

Lightning-protection systems are “commonly allowed” in other municipalities’ code, according to Planning Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons.

The town code lists height exceptions for TV antennas and church spires. There is also a special exception process for elevators.

Barber’s application is on behalf of Boris Miksic and his wife Ines Tendler’s home at 640 Halyard Lane in Country Club Shores IV North.

“It’s just something to help and protect,” Tendler said. “It’s not something that is an eyesore that somebody says, ‘Why did they put a pink giraffe in the backyard made out of metal?’”

The area around Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport experienced 24 thunderstorm days in August 2020, according to the National Weather Service. July had 18 thunderstorm days.

“As far as the weather is concerned, almost every afternoon we have storms here, it thunders, lighting, so I mean it’s good to have protection,” Miksic said.

Miksick and Tender also claim their lightning rods protect neighbors’ homes nearby.

“I think they should allow the lightning rods because it's a safety thing,” Tendler said. “So it's the same thing I can say, ‘I don't like a 4-foot fence around the pool, it looks ugly,’ but it protects children. And, it's kind of the same thing.”

On Monday, Country Club Shores Section IV Homeowner’s Association President Lynn Larson spoke in opposition to the initial proposal. She urged commissioners to consider a third party to provide an “unbiased opinion” instead of someone who sells lightning protection systems.

“I beg you to please bring in an expert who can give you testimony and tell you exactly what is the minimum necessary,” Larson said. “Don't listen to an applicant who has a vested interest.

In July, the commission heard from Dr. Vladimir Rakov — a professor at the University of Florida whose expertise is in electromagnetic and energy systems.

Commissioners are planning to vote on a revised ordinance during its second reading at the next regular commission meeting on Oct. 5.

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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