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Redington Beach settles to avoid lawsuit
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REDINGTON BEACH – The Town Commission held a special meeting Feb. 13 for the purpose of avoiding a potentially costly lawsuit and to sidestep getting drawn into a dispute between two neighbors.

Redington Beach Commissioners agreed to pay a cash settlement of $25,000 to $30,000 to a homeowner whom the town, in error, issued a building permit for the construction of three walls and an elaborate gate fronting the property.

The property in question is at 15912 Gulf Blvd. and owned by Redington Beach resident Douglas Backman who is in the process of building a luxurious, waterfront villa for himself and his family at the site.

Backman and his attorney Richard Fee came before the board seeking the above-mentioned damages that Backman will be required to shell out if 85 feet of custom-made wrought iron fencing and pillars flanking both sides of the driveway entrance must be scrapped and redesigned to meet the town’s requirements.

Although there were several options proposed for resolving the matter, Town Attorney Jay Daigneault advised the commission that offering a one-time cash settlement to Backman to bring the front wall of the property into compliance with that of the town’s building code is in the town’s best interest. In exchange, the agreement releases the town from any and all legal claims pertaining to this case.

At the meeting’s conclusion, both parties and their attorneys agreed that if Backman is able to keep the columns and reduce their height per the code, the city agrees to award him $24,000.

If the amended design calls for the elimination of the pillars, the city will pay Backman $29,000.

Backman proposed splitting the difference and offered to donate the $5,000 to the town for beautification of its local parks.

“The town has acknowledged that errors were made in the processing and evaluation of this permit application and deeply regrets those errors,” said Daigneault.

The town granted Backman a permit in July 2012 that allowed him to construct three concrete walls and fencing to surround the property to provide privacy. Upon receipt of the building permit, Backman proceeded to hire architects, engineers and contractors to begin the necessary work, which, to his understanding, had been given the green light by town officials. Included in the plans was a front gate with two gate pillars at either end of the fence, each pillar measuring 59 inches in height.

As construction on the front wall began, the town received a letter last October from an attorney representing a neighbor living to the south of the property voicing concerns as to the height of the proposed columns on the site’s front wall facing Gulf Boulevard, which, it was contended, had not been taken into account at the time the permit was issued.

The Pinellas County Building Department, with whom the town contracts for building permitting services, investigated the attorney’s letter and found per FDOT design standards, the two pillars would create an obstructed sight line for the neighbor, when pulling out onto Gulf Boulevard.

In light of this, the town rescinded the permit when it was determined the pillars to be in compliance would need to be reduced by at least 17 inches.

In November 2012, Daigneault, acting on behalf of the town, offered Backman a “reasonable sum” of money to lessen any financial burden associated with bringing the wall into compliance.

Backman then appealed the decision to the Board of Adjustments requesting a review of the town’s interpretation of the codes relative to the wall. The BOA rejected the appeal.

Backman agreed to halt construction on the fence and pillars until the matter could be resolved.
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