MUD, Height, Massing, Variances
Town Council, with Mayor Anita Cereceda, Vice-Mayor Ray Murphy and Council members Rexann Hosafros and Joanne Shamp present, hosted the Local Planning Agency (LPA) in a joint session on Thursday, September 5. Council member Bruce Butcher was on excused absence) All LPA members were present: Chair Megan Heil, Vice Chair Jane Plummer, Jim Atterholt, Dan Hughes, Scott Safford, Timothy Smith and Lorrie Wolf. Representing Town Staff were Town Manager Roger Hernstadt, Town Attorney John Herin, Jr., and contract Community Development specialists Jason Green and Sarah Probst. Mayor Anita Cereceda began the meeting by saying, “We really appreciate the work of the LPA, on all the issues that are extremely important for the future of our Town!”
During a discussion on Minimum Use Determination (MUD) Requirements, Probst explained that Staff finds the MUD requirements problematic and recommends changes to eliminate issues that make some Fort Myers Beach lots buildable or others that already have homes on them unbuildable. This pertains to lots under 4,000-square-feet, on which many homes already exist. The way the code is currently written, those property owners may not have the right to rebuild their homes.
After significant conversation, the panels agreed to primarily accept Staff’s #2 recommendation to make existing lots buildable, no matter the size or if a structure was built across the property line of two nonconforming lots sizes. Buildable lots include those subdivided out of a platted subdivision, if no subdivision of the lot exists and are less than the allowable lot size, as long as proof of the legal lot exists before the Town’s January 1, 1996, incorporation, and the legal description matches the provided one, thus allowing existing lots less than 4,000-square-feet to be buildable or rebuildable.
“These people get to appear before Council,” added Hernstadt, “to tell you how and why they should be allowed to build, where right now the answer is a hard ‘No!’ We want to get them into the batter’s box so they can pitch to you what they want for your review.”
Height & Massing
In discussing Building Height & Massing in the Land Development Code (LDC), Probst stated that Staff recommends a different format to measure building heights: the mean height between the eave and the roof peak. With this change, a large mass roof will count toward the structure’s total height, providing for various roof and architectural designs.
In the related issues of massing and setbacks, Staff recommends increasing the height and potentially the number of stories by providing additional setbacks or an open first floor, if the design is in compliance with current code for height and stories, while providing an opportunity to meet additional requirements to receive the benefit of height and stories. Probst then displayed several renderings to illustrate these suggestions.
Council member Joanne Shamp exclaimed, “I love this! My only concern is making sure our language does not allow a party deck up on flat roofs. I like allowing three stories, but once you put air conditioning and elevator equipment on the roof, you allow four stories. How do we get around that?” Probst replied, “Because now you count the roof space, rather than sneaking in an additional story with living units inside their roof height.” Hernstadt added, “We make it clear the top is the top and there is nothing above the top!” Cereceda predicted “Once people see this style, this will become the new trend in Town!”
During a discussion on the use of Administrative Setback Variances, Green explained that the Town previously approved several Administrative Setback Variances to assist property owners in overcoming non-conforming structures, with Staff sometimes providing administrative approval, while others appear before Town Council. Staff would like more consistency and stricter guidelines over administrative setback variance approval, he explained.
Following lengthy discussion, Heil suggested, “Staff can sign off on a 2-inch or less construction error; anything over that must come to the LPA, then Council, as we may have a big problem!” Atterholt agreed, “This is a good compromise! If the same contractors keeps coming before us, we’ll know we have a bigger problem.”
By Gary Mooney