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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 5 years ago

Town encounters code conundrum

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Should the town be able to tell a property owner when it’s time to re-paint his house or repair a crack in his stucco wall?

The town’s Planning and Zoning Department doesn’t think so.

At its Jan. 15 regular meeting, the planning board wrestled with how to bolster its codes without becoming overbearing to property owners.

In November, the Longboat Key Town Commission agreed with staff’s recommendation to strengthen a property maintenance code that requires property owners to cut overgrown weeds and grass.

The code came into question when commissioners started receiving complaints about the dilapidated Whitney Beach Plaza and the rundown Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.

The roof is caving in at certain spots at Whitney Beach Plaza; the vacant gas station on the north end has a fence falling down; and the outward appearance of the Colony has deteriorated for months. Although corrections to many of those issues are in progress, it’s not because of code enforcement.

None of those renovations could be enforced through the current property maintenance code, and that’s why changes are being considered.

Senior planner Steve Schield discussed suggestions with planning board members. He explained a revised code could require property owners to fix ripped pool-cage screens, move boats and trailers out of sight and mandate the cleanup of carports that contain unsightly storage.

Although the planning board agrees that some of those ideas would help the Key’s appearance, members worry the town could be crossing the line.

“We can’t be the paint police,” said planning board member Al Hixon. “We have to watch the line where we are infringing on property rights.”

A new code will also force the town to pay more for code enforcement Key-wide.

Currently, the town only has one full-time code-enforcement officer.

The planning board also agreed last week to form a subcommittee of planning board members to thoroughly review the code with staff.

“A lot of this is aesthetics and a lot is Big Brother watching,” said planning board Chairwoman B.J. Webb. “This whole thing has left me with a feeling of tremendous discomfort.”

A Core value for town: enforced landscaping
“The town shall support well-designed and well-maintained neighborhoods, communities and commercial areas through the regulation and enforcement of landscaping and property-maintenance codes for the beautification of the island and protection of property values.”

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