Wilfredo Rodriguez failed to convince the Fort Myers Beach LPA of the need for variances to allow a front yard pool at a home he owns at 215 Nature View Court on Tuesday morning. He came before the board to ask for three variances related to a swimming pool: one to place a pool in the front yard; one to allow a 48” fence as safety regulations require and one to put the pool in the visibility triangle for the intersection of Bay Road and Nature View Court.
Principal Planner Matt Noble introduced the variance requests, explaining that the primary decision to be made was on a front yard pool. Noble told the LPA that he had heard from neighbors complaining about inappropriate use of the rental house and had heard questions addressing why the pool could not be put in the back yard. He reported that the property owner had addressed the rental questions, changing the information provided to prospective renters. The house is in an area eligible for weekly rentals.
Noble explained that the back yard was not a good location for the pool due to a deck that provides secondary access to the second floor. Pilings for that deck impact the space available for a pool. LPA members questioned why the application survey did not include the exact measurements from the back of the structure to the rear lot line. Noble estimated it was about 14 feet to the edge of the deck, which was about 15 feet wide. Noble said that the deck has been in place for at least 20 years according to Lee County records.
Rodriguez told the LPA that he is willing to make any adjustments they deemed worthy in order to get the variance approved, stating that there is no room in the back yard for a pool and he would like a pool for his family.
Suzanne Katt took exception to the applicant stating that he wants the pool for his family, then learning that it is a rental property.
“I don’t live there now,” Rodriguez said. “I am renting it for extra money to pay off the mortgage, but I do plan to move here.”
Responding to reports of overcrowding in the rental, he said that the 4-bedroom home rents for a maximum of 14 people, but normally, he rents to smaller family groups.
During Public Comment, Marty Weit said he lived across the street from the property and has a problem with “14 people now having a focal point in my front yard.”
“It’s overkill. It’s too much. It’s going to affect the value of my property. It’s too much to have a pool in your front yard.”
Don Baker spoke for his daughter who has a home on Nature View Court. He said there is a 1986 covenant for that development that prohibits fences in the front yard. Anyone buying property on the street should have known about the covenant before he bought the home, Baker said.
Ron Coveleski brought up issues about the visibility triangle and setbacks. He also objected to the concept of front yard pools.
“I’m afraid of establishing a precedent. We had an issue of elevated pools. Now you’re going to have an issue of adding a pool in the front yard.”
Tauna Yerkes spoke for her parents, Dwayne and Amber Schott, Nature View Court residents, urging denial of the request for a front yard pool.
“We have a lovely community pool less than a block away that can be used. The front yard is not a place for this pool in this quiet residential neighborhood. It’s only going to generate more rentals, more noise. Our neighborhood really does not want this resort style pool, hot tub, fire pit in the front yard.”
Annette Dwyer expressed concern about the proposed pool mixing with the entrance to Matanzas Pass Preserve and the use of Bay Road by school buses.
“We live there because it’s quiet. Rentals do add a lot of noise. If you choose to move here with your family, you can put a small pool in the back yard.”
Once the public had spoken, members of the LPA voiced their thoughts.
Joanne Shamp said that in the RC zoning district, which the house is in, a pool can be 6’ from the rear lot line and while the deck and landing for the 2nd floor door would need to redone, it was still possible to put a pool in the back yard.
A discussion about right of ways, easements and the visibility triangle, was overshadowed by the possible precedent of allowing a pool in the front yard in a quiet neighborhood. Currently there are ‘front yard pools’ for 1-2 family homes only along Estero Blvd in Fort Myers Beach.
Shamp went through the list of required findings to grant a variance, concluding that the applicant did not meet the conditions required to grant a variance.
“It would be possible to redesign the deck to allow a pool in the back yard. I don’t see how this can be approved because all five of these are a ‘no.’”
Jane Plummer came to a different conclusion, saying that she believes that the applicant does meet the majority of criteria for a variance.
“It would be a great expense to take down two levels of deck and rebuild…With those beautiful trees in the back yard, I’d hate to see those huge trees taken out to put in a pool…Maybe we should ask for an extension to review the neighborhood guidelines.”
LPA Hank Zuba expressed concern about setting a precedent and proximity to the school.
Following a motion by Shamp to deny the front yard pool variance, the LPA agreed 6-1 with Plummer voting nay.
New LPA Member
The LPA welcomed their newest member, Dan Hendrickson, appointed by Town Council in June to fill the seat vacated by Jim Steele, now Town Manager. Hendrickson explained that he was a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan and was a psychotherapist previously, but is now a property manager. He moved to Fort Myers Beach about 2 years ago. Hendrickson said he hopes to represent the island well.
New Building Code
Senior Planner Megan Will then brought an ordinance regarding Floodplain Regulations to the LPA for approval. The amendments to Chapter 6, Article IV coordinate the Town’s floodplain regulations with the latest (2015) version of the Florida Building Code (FBC) in coordination with the Florida Department of Emergency Management (DEM).
Beginning with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Will explained the partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Florida DEM and the Town of Fort Myers Beach. FEMA provides flood maps, sets minimal regulations and provides federal flood insurance. The Florida DEM provides technical assistance. Fort Myers Beach adopts flood maps and adopts and enforces regulations.
Florida Building Code includes design and construction rules for buildings in flood hazard areas, which includes the entire island. The Town has made a commitment to FEMA and the NFIP to adopt and maintain adequate building regulations that coordinate with the FBC to avoid conflicting requirements.
To make this easier, Will explained, the Florida DEM developed a State Model Ordinance that coordinates with the FBC, is approved by FEMA, reviewed by the Building Officials Association of Florida and the Florida Floodplain Management Association.
Will assured the LPA that the LDC amendment was also tailored to our community, adopting the Town’s 2008 flood maps, including island specific flood zones.
The Town had previously adopted higher standards in some areas, including the prohibition of new manufactured homes in the V-zone.
The amendment also includes a provision for cumulative substantial improvement, or the FEMA 50% rule. Simplified, the rule states that when the total value of renovation/repairs over a specific time (in the Town’s case, 5 years) exceeds 50% of the structures market value, then the structure must comply with FBC flood rules for new structures.
Will explained that ‘hardening’ or replacement of roof, door and windows only stays on the cumulative improvement list for 1 year, while other improvements stay on for 5 years.
LPA members asked why the Town of Fort Myers Beach, with a Community Rating System (CRS) rating of 7, had to use a 5-year time frame for the 50% rule, while Sanibel, with a CRS rating of 5 (the lower the better) was able to use a 1 year time frame. CRS ratings help determine the cost of flood insurance for properties in the community.
A persistent concern of several LPA members, altering the Town’s building regulations to make rebuilding and renovating older properties easier, could be addressed in a revision of the new ordinance and several voiced a desire to do so.
LPA Attorney Dawn Lehnert told the LPA that their role was to determine whether this ordinance was consistent with the Comp Plan and LDC. Any changes suggested to the ordinance would likely delay it by up to a year.
Will assured the LPA that she has contacted the CRS coordinator and asked what the ramifications would be if the Town changed their 50% rule from 5 years to 1 year, but has no answer yet.
Community Development Director Kara Stewart added that the effort to reduce the burden of the 50% rule would continue.
During Public Comment, Lauri Albion spoke for Red Coconut RV Resort saying that the rule changes in 2013 had a big impact on the resort, limiting where trailers can be placed and what could be done with them.
Will stated that the resort is in the “village district’ and there are specific regulations that apply to Red Coconut.
Former Town Manager John Gucciardo spoke during Public Comment, offering a historical perspective regarding factors other than the building code that might influence the difference between Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach’s CRS rating.
“One thing was that Sanibel was incorporated about 20 years before Fort Myers Beach was. They were able to take the steps to maintain open lands. They took huge parts of the island, purchased them and prohibited development. When they got their rating of a ‘5,’ nationwide there were only 2-3 communities with that ‘5’ rating.
“We were never in a position to do that, Gucciardo said. “The ‘7’ is a positive thing. Not to say that there aren’t things than can improve it. In terms of process, you could take steps to pass this, but then look at particular content that concerns you, suggest changes you’d like council to look at and have staff look at ramifications of those changes.”
Zuba then made a motion to approve the ordinance, finding it consistent with the Comp Plan and urging council to work with the LPA to consider changes to make the 50% rule more efficient and consistent with other communities. It passed 5-2 with Katt and Plummer against.
The LPA unanimously agreed to postpone a discussion of an Evaluation and Appraisal Report to the state until their September meeting.
Historic Sea Gypsy
Meeting as the Historic Preservation Board, the board unanimously approved an application to designate the Sea Gypsy Inn building as a Category 2 – Historic Recognition property. The building, originally the cottage of Clem and Lucy McGee, at 1698 Estero Blvd. became the first public library in Lee County and the first beach library in 1955. When first opened, it held 1,200 books and was staffed by volunteers a few hours each week. Now painted a bright yellow, it houses the Sea Gypsy Inn owned by Jacki Liszak.
The next scheduled LPA meeting will be held on September 13 at 9am at Town Hall.