LPA Approves Major Change in 50% Rule

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The Local Planning Agency had just two main items on their agenda Tuesday, but they were both items of importance – the 50% rule and permit survey requirements.

 

50% Rule

Changes in the floodplain ordinance were approved unanimously 6-0, with Suzanne Katt absent. The biggest of those changes is a move to change the 50% rule regarding substantial home repair or renovation from a 5-year cumulative limit to a permit-by-permit limit. For the past several months the LPA has been discussing changing the time period limitation in which a homeowner can repair or improve their property without having to meet current building codes, specifically elevation, from 5-years to 1-year.

Community Development Director Kara Stewart reported to the LPA that her research revealed that several communities had abandoned the 5-year time period for 1-year or even the permit-to-permit limits, all with FEMA approval. Some of those jurisdictions include St. Petersburg, Sanibel, Collier County and Indian Rocks Beach.

The permit-by-permit change, if approved by town council and FEMA, would mean, for example, that a homeowner could apply for a permit to replace their roof and windows and once that was inspected as complete with a Certificate of Occupancy or a Certificate of Completion, they could apply for a permit to renovate their kitchen and bathrooms, so long as each permit was for work valued at under 50% of the market value of their home not including land value. Stewart explained that while FEMA had approved those changes they did not want it used for “phased” renovation, such as a kitchen renovation permit that did not include cabinets, followed by a permit request for cabinets, obviously phased to stay under the 50% value limit.

Stewart addressed concerns regarding the town’s CRS rating if this permit-by-permit change is adopted.

“The credits we currently receive give us a 15% discount on flood insurance for homeowners,” Stewart said. “We’re at 1771 points. We have a new CRS reviewer who has said we’d lose 29 points by adopting this. The threshold between one level and another is in 500 points increments…there is no difference between 1-year and permit-by-permit in points.”

Reacting, Jane Plummer tossed her information sheets over her head dramatically, later apologizing for the display.

“I am very, very proud of you for getting this information,” Plummer said. “This is very important to keep the character of this island. You can’t keep a property solid if you can’t make improvements. It should be a choice I want to live in a ground level home and I want to make it strong. We have to realize that if we want to keep the homes at ground level…we have to make a change. I’m 100% for going with permit-by-permit.”

Scott Safford asked Stewart if the Community Development department would be able to handle the change and she responded that it would make their lives much easier.

In response to questions about any downside to the permit-by-permit change, Stewart replied that after reaching out to several jurisdictions who have that standard now, the only reservations were CRS rating and points and she’s determined that will not effect Fort Myers Beach.

John Gucciardo was in attendance and was asked his opinion as a former floodplain manager for Bonita Springs.

“We were aware of the option of 1-year and permit-by-permit, but early on there was some concern about the straight face test and how quickly could values be calculated,” Gucciardo said. “There were some reservations, but it sounds like jurisdictions have worked some things out. “

The second part of the floodplain ordinance change was the addition of a 20% multiplier when the tax assessor value is used to determine market value. Market value may also be established by a independent appraiser or by replacement cost with depreciation.

Plummer spoke at length about the unfairness of using the tax assessor’s value for homesteaded homes on the island, claiming it puts them at a disadvantage due to limits in value increase. Concluding that he is unaware of any new alternative method of valuation that FEMA has accepted, Zuba replied that efforts to address that issue should be saved for another day.

The floodplain ordinance will need to be approved by Town Council and FEMA before it can go into effect.

 

Surveys Required for Permits

The second major topic of discussion was a resolution to add permitting survey requirements to Chapter 34 of the Land Development Code, which the LPA also passed unanimously 6-0.

Under the revised rules, if passed by Town Council, a Boundary Survey would be required for new construction, room additions, swimming pool/spas, accessory buildings and fences. A foundation survey would be required for new construction and accessory buildings. In addition new construction would be required to submit an as-built survey and a height/elevation survey. The Director of Community Development would have discretion to waive the survey requirement if the proposed construction does not alter the building envelope or height or if the value of the construction is less than $10,000.

Jane Plummer asked if a project underway would be effected by the new requirements and Jack Peterson, LPA Attorney, answered that the change would be effective immediately if passed by Town Council and permit holders would be required to comply.

Chair Hank Zuba asked Stewart if the 1978 Coastal Construction line, (CCCL) which is the subject of a lawsuit against the Town, isn’t a point of contention. Stewart responded that there is just one instance of contention. Surveys will have to show the 1978 and 1991 CCCL lines if applicable.

New LPA member Lorrie Wolf was welcomed and gave a short introduction at the beginning of the meeting.

‘I’ve lived on the island for almost 25 years. I’m active in the community, serving 4 terms on the Library Board and was part of the construction of our beautiful new library for the town, Lorrie said. “I’ve served on the Mound House committee, CELCAB, for 10 years. I’ve also been active in the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation and Pilot Club before that. I’ve served on the Chamber Board and the old Civic Association Board. I own a small business in town. I am a widow and think this will be a good challenge for me.”

In Suzanne Katt’s absence, Dan Hendrickson gave a brief report for the Historic Preservation Board, noting that that the board and Historic Advisory Committee is seeking applications for the Town’s Historic Recognition Program and trying to correct any misperception of what that entails. The recognition program is a simple recognition program and does not carry any restrictions on what can be done with the property. Interested homeowners are asked to contact Matt Noble at Town Hall.

During Member Items Zuba asked for nominations for the position of Vice-Chair. Megan Heil nominated the absent Katt and the board agreed in a 6-0 vote.

LPA meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month. The next meeting is scheduled for May 9 at 9am in Town Hall.

 

Missy Layfield