Building Rules, Parking Dominate Workshop

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    The Fort Myers Beach Town Council held a workshop Monday, October 3rd, and reviewed five agenda items.

    The first, an Interlocal Agreement (ILA) with Lee County regarding well permitting, would codify the county’s agreement with the town. In 2005, the county was delegated authority by the South Florida Water Management District to permit and inspect water wells. Lee County has provided this service to the Town since its inception without an ILA, and is now seeking one from all jurisdictions including Fort Myers Beach. The agreement will not charge the town anything, but permit seekers will pay appropriate County fees.

    Mr. Lee Werst, hydrogeologist supervisor for the Lee County Division of Natural Resources said 60 to 90 wells are drilled annually on Fort Myers Beach, and his department ensures their protection.

    Council member Tracey Gore commented that many wells are now defined as geothermal holes, indicating a type of well. Mr. Werst replied that is correct, stating that this is especially popular on Fort Myers Beach, as the process allows you to pull from one geothermal hole to another in a closed-loop system. Gore notes that Sanibel’s ILA stipulates that any proposed well must first receive the approval of its natural resources personnel and asked if Fort Myers Beach would have the same consideration, with Mr. Werst assuring it will. Council approved the Interlocal Agreement during their afternoon meeting.

    Surveys & Regulations

    Boback then introduced the topic of survey requirements, with a resolution approved by the Local Planning Agency (LPA) at its November 14, 2014 meeting, recommending a boundary survey, foundation survey, as-built survey and a height/elevation survey for new construction, substantial improvement or for swimming pools/spas. The LPA recommended all but a height survey for room additions and accessory structures. Fences would require just a boundary survey.

    Staff reviewed permitting procedures in place at the time of the resolution and discussed options and implications with the Town Council.

    Director of Community Development Kara Stewart said that to demonstrate compliance with regulations, the applicant or contractor currently must provide a boundary survey at the time of the building permit application, a foundation survey, an as-built survey prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy or completion, and a survey of height when the permit calls for construction within 5 feet of the height limitation in the applicable zoning district.

    The Town can waive the survey requirements for interior remodeling only, as well as for windows, doors and shutters. There are waivers for an existing prior survey that addresses current permit details, if the value of the permitted construction is less than $5,000, or if it will not encroach outside the building envelope.

    Council member Rexann Hosafros disagreed with the exemption below $5,000 or for simple structures, like sheds, because many of these now cost $10,000 or more. Vice Mayor Summer Stockton asked who would not require a survey, as that is why the process exists, to prevent encroachment by even six inches to avoid having someone at a future date move an entire building.

    Mayor Boback asked how the Town could ensure the validity of the submitted survey. Stewart said they must rely on the professionalism of the licensed surveyor. Hosafros wanted to include surveys for as-built construction, swimming pools and spas, and height requirements. Council member Anita Cereceda said that resolving these issues is enormously important, and she looks forward to future staff insights and recommendations.

    Greedy Developers

    Under agenda topic ‘Miscellaneous Land Development Code Updates,’ Council reviewed previously discussed potential Land Development Code (LDC) amendments and miscellaneous items from the work session of May 14, 2015. Staff also introduced the possibility of an Administrative Code.

    At the May work session, council discussed six items for staff to research and provide reports: construction staging, accessory structure setbacks-uses, 6-inch fill, permitting parking lots, overall development, and code enforcement. Additional items include transfer of density rights, as well as the option of an administrative code.

    Stewart explained that the purpose of the administrative code is to set out the minimum submission requirements to complete the permitting process for single family, duplex dwellings and accessory structures, as well as basic job site stipulations.

    She said construction staging is a significant issue, as many new homes are so large and take up so much of the property footprint that it is difficult for crews to maneuver between two existing homes, with offsite staging an option.

    Hosafros favored offsite staging adding that scaffolding can become a trespassing issue. She wants to avoid neighbor versus neighbor confrontations, as that is a bad way to build a good community. Boback suggested contractors ferry workers to job sites to reduce parking congestion, and encouraged Stewart to gather feedback from area contractors about these proposals.

    Gore asked, “The Town code is over 20 years old; why these issues now?” Stewart replied that the current code does not address all current problems such as people cramming more and more onto smaller parcels. Builders and new homeowners want to utilize all the space the LDC allows.

    Stockton insisted it’s not the code’s fault.

    “It’s not the code, pre or post incorporation, of the town. Those haven’t been the problem. The problem is we’ve got a new generation of people in here – developers  – that are greedy and prostituting our island,” Stockton said. “These codes have been the same pre and post incorporation and these things weren’t happening…and now, all of a sudden, the past five years, they’re happening. Sounds to me like we have a problem with greed. Nothing has changed with the code and now gargantuan shoeboxes are being built.

    “Are we just trying to tighten the codes up to keep our island from being prostituted by these vultures?”

    Gore added that she loves the town’s LDC and thinks there’s something wrong with how codes are being used.

    Hosafros philosophized that the development horse is already out of the barn but has not yet run off; this is an opportunity to find a way to preserve what we can.

    Stewart will bring the code issues back to council at a later date.

    Let’s Vote & No Parking

    Council then turned their attention to revenue sharing. In March 2016, the town held a charter referendum and repealed the provisions of Town Charter 17.01. Afterwards, the Town learned this repeal could jeopardize its ability to obtain State revenue sharing funds in the event of a property value decline.

    The Town obtained an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the effect of repealing this Charter provision and if another referendum can reinstate it. The Attorney General’s Office deferred the question to the Department of Revenue, that determined the Town does qualify on its own to receive State revenue sharing funds for Fiscal Year 2016-2017, and that reinstatement of the Charter’s 17.01 via a successful referendum would ensure the Town’s ability to meet the criteria for sharing in the state revenue funds in the future.

    Donora Boulevard and Palermo Circle have right-of-ways that abut property owners that have expressed an interest in leasing that ROW. According to the Town Code of Ordinances, the Town Council must first designate areas adjacent to streets as subscription parking. Once approved, businesses may lease the ROW.

    Interim Town Manager James Steele reported that two businesses wish to lease parcels for subscription parking, and Town Council must designate these zones for the process to proceed. The Red Coconut RV Park would like a parcel on Donora Boulevard for up to 31 vehicle parking spaces, and Council found little conflict with this and would later approve it in their Council meeting.

    The Beached Whale had expressed interest in using a strip of land adjacent to Palermo Circle for landscaping and a buffer area. Stockton said she was totally against this, as it would not promote increased safely for patrons entering or exiting that establishment. Gore agreed, saying that area is already the most congested on the island and this arrangement is not in the public interest. Cereceda encouraged keeping an open mind and allowing the Beached Whale owners to show council what they would do with the strip of land before saying no.

    “The process could bring us a plan that might improve that parcel for the property owner and the public,” Cereceda said.

    Council voted 3-2 in the Monday evening meeting to deny the designation to Beached Whale with Boback, Stockton and Gore voting no.

     

    Gary Mooney