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Under construction earlier this year, a house on Halyard Lane  in Country Club Shores prompted residents to get involved in amending the zoning code to remove exceptions to the 30-foot height limit.
Longboat Key Wednesday, Apr. 19, 2017 3 years ago

Residents demand no exceptions to Longboat Key height limits

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The Planning and Zoning Board is reexamining the 30-foot height limit for single-family homes.
by: John McGuire Staff Writer

Longboat Key’s Planning and Zoning Board took a measured approach on Tuesday to its re-examination of the town’s restrictions on the height of houses.

With nearly every seat in front of board members filled with residents who often applauded the phrase “no exceptions,’’ the board decided to seek new guidance on elevators and Florida’s Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Protection Act before taking any new action on the town’s 30-foot height limit.

At issue: construction of a home on Halyard Lane in Country Club Shores that prompted residents to get involved last year.

Lynn Larson, president of the homeowners association for Section 4 of Country Club Shores, presented the board with more than 100 signatures from residents of her neighborhood, petitioning to keep subsequent single-family homes at the town’s 30-foot height limit above elevation with no add-ons or exceptions.

“We’re getting signatures all over the place,” Larson said.

Located atop the two-story home at 585 Halyard Lane, the structure that raised the issue in the first place features an elevator shaft and a stairwell. Many of the surrounding homes are single-story, amplifying the difference.

Residents of the other sections of Country Club Shores, as well as Longbeach Village, provided the board with additional petitions, making for about 300 signatures.

“You can see by the people in this room that people do care,” Larson told the board.

In early March, the Town Commission considered amending the rules based on previous recommendations from the Planning and Zoning Board to minimize the impact these structures have on neighboring properties. The recommendations included reducing the allowable square footage of these rooftop structures from 15% of the roof area to 10%, which is the minimum required by the Florida Building Code.

The recommendations also called for restricting the height of the structures to the “minimum required to provide the allowable uses,” and limiting stairwells to a single run.

After hearing the concerns of residents, the Town Commission sent the height-rules amendment back to the Planning and Zoning Board for re-evaluation to explore the possibility of more stringent restrictions. Any new rules will advance again to the commission.

Among the potential courses of action considered:

- Prohibiting additional structures over 30 feet in certain zoning districts, such as single-family neighborhoods like Country Club Shores, Longbeach Village and Emerald Harbor.

- Implementing a special exception or waiver process for add-ons to single-family homes townwide. This option would require neighbors within 500 feet of the property be notified of the proposed structure, and a subsequent public hearing in front of the Planning and Zoning Board.

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale emphasized the town must proceed with caution. Should an amendment to the town code diminish a property owner’s investment-backed expectation, the town could be in violation of Florida’s Bert Harris Act.

“Total prohibition is the most concerning option,” Mooney-Portale said. “We run some risk, maybe some significant risk, because this has been in our code for quite some time.”

At the board’s May 16 meeting, the opinion of an expert on the legal minimum-required size of elevator shafts is expected, along with further information on the Bert Harris Act.

B.J. Bishop, chairwoman of the Planning and Zoning Board, stressed the town should strive to ensure the legality of any potential amendments.

“My goal is to stay out of court because I am not a fan of sitting through depositions,” she said.

What is the Bert Harris Act?

The Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Protection Act provides compensation for property owners who suffer economic loss from a regulatory taking.

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