LPA Discusses 50% Rule, EAR and Permits

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While the sole agenda item was pulled from the Local Planning Agency’s agenda on Tuesday morning, the committee used the meeting to hold discussions on a variety of other topics. In Chair Hank Zuba’s absence, Vice-Chair Joanne Shamp ran the meeting. All other LPA members were present.

The continued hearing for the Lighthouse Island Resort CPD amendment was removed from the agenda at the applicant’s request and will be rescheduled.

Meeting as the Historic Preservation Board, Shamp said that the HPB has an application from the Fort Myers Beach Woman’s Club at 175 Sterling St., for Category of Historic Importance (CHI) 1: Historic Designation. Code requires a hearing within a specific time frame, leading the HPB to decide to proceed with their next steps with the application after their summer break. The HPB also plans to hold plaque ceremonies for the four properties recognized in May.

Senior Planner Megan Will spoke to the LPA about the Town’s planning efforts. Changes to the Florida Building Code in 2015 resulted in an amendment to our LDC, which is now being reviewed at the state level.

Will said that the Town’s emergency management planning is also undergoing change.

“The current plan was written in 2006. Updates created in 2012 were never adopted. In 2014-2015 the Public Safety Committee and council member Rexann Hosafros worked on it. In the next few months, I will be working on it and hope to come back with a more streamlined plan, then we’ll move into our ordinances.”

 

50% Rule

Will said she spends a good portion of each workday answering questions about the 50% rule. The FEMA 50% Rule refers to the requirement that a home owner may invest no more than 50% of a building’s value in renovation or they must meet all current codes, including elevation above flood level. A Frequently Asked Question handout on the 50% rule was prepared by the Town’s Community Development Department several years ago and can be found at bit.ly/FMBFEMA50

At the heart of the 50% rule is the question, ‘What is the building’s value?’ Each property on the Lee County Appraiser’s website has a value, with land value separated from building value. The rule applies to building value only. Homeowners are frequently surprised at a building’s value, especially in homes that have been homesteaded for years.

Will referenced one recent property where the building was appraised at $80,000 and the land value was $1 million. Many homeowners obtain private appraisals for their property before considering renovation. Others obtain them for possible storm damage baseline information.

Kara Stewart of the Community Development Department told the LPA that she would coordinate the development of a tutorial on the 50% rule to educate the community.

 

EAR

Principal Planner Matt Noble reported that he will provide a summary letter on the Evaluation and Appraisal Report at the LPA’s July meeting. He explained that the state requires that the town complete an EAR to make sure that the town’s Comprehensive Plan is consistent with state law.

“When we looked at (the Comp Plan) and realized that it hadn’t been touched since 1995 and there have been drastic state law changes since 1995, we knew we wanted to take a good look at the whole plan.”

The LPA has reviewed the plan section by section over the past year, making suggestions on changes that would streamline the plan, removing obsolete deadlines and putting all references to similar topics together. Noble will summarize those reviews and create an EAR summary letter, which is due in Tallahassee in August 2016. Following that, Comp Plan amendments will be considered.

 

Administrative Codes

Stewart told the LPA that when she arrived last year in Town Hall, she was surprised to find that the Town did not have any administrative codes as the county does to guide the Community Development Department in reviewing applications. She explained that the administrative code is a supplement to the LDC and she plans to work on developing single-family/duplex administrative code first. She referenced survey requirements, something the LPA passed about 18 months ago, which has never been passed by Town Council and were never added to the LDC.

“For instance, you did a lot of work on surveys,” Stewart said. “Now that I’ve been here awhile, I would have the ability in administrative codes to require one without it being in the LDC.”

LPA member Bruce Butcher asked Stewart if the Town tracks how long it takes to get permits and whether having administrative code will help speed permits.

“We are currently working in conjunction with Lee County plan review and are in approximately 7-day turnaround,” said Stewart. “What we run into frequently, is folks not liking our answer and not agreeing necessarily with what we’re telling them is the problem. I have one that’s going on a year…We try to turn our zoning around in 2 days and have increased the number of permits we can do over the counter – simple renovation, kitchen replacement in a condo, windows…”

The next LPA meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 19th at 9am at Town Hall, a week later than their normal date due to LPA member schedules.

 

Missy Layfield