REDINGTON BEACH – Town commissioners began discussion Feb. 18 on how to deal with nonconforming lot sizes and configuration should it be through a voluntary remodeling project or as a result of an act of God such as a house-leveling hurricane.
Redington Beach Mayor Nick Simons said the matter is being put forth for discussion due to changes implemented by the town several years ago in response to two properties in town on which the homeowner of each wanted to build two units on a site platted for a single dwelling.
In response, the board, at the time, ruled that the lot size must be a minimum of 5,805 square feet with a 60-foot setback from the road.
More recently, however, Simons cited homeowners who have questioned whether they would be allowed to rebuild their homes in the event of flooding if the home sits on a lot smaller than is now required.
“This is not about an act of God. It’s about somebody who has a slab-on-grade (house) who wishes to mitigate the impact of flood insurance,” said Simons. “The point is that the owner should be able to tear down and rebuild even if it does not meet the lost size requirement.”
In addition, Simons noted that Commissioner Fred Steiermann recently purchased a home that he would like to completely rebuild, but it sits on a triangular-shaped lot and does not meet the current zoning definition that would allow him to do so.
The board agreed that the definitions outlining nonconforming uses, as they currently stand, fail to adequately address certain situations, especially as they pertain to redeveloping a residential property destroyed by a natural disaster.
For instance, a section of the code states that a homeowner whose home has been destroyed by a hurricane would have six months in which to rebuild a house if it sits on a lot that does not meet the current criteria.
“If you don’t rebuild within six months, you’re up a creek,” said Town Attorney Robert Metz.
Attorney suggested approaching the matter as two separate issues – one as an act of God and the other addressing nonconforming lots.
However, he noted that the town already addresses nonconforming lots by way of a variance that homeowners can request.
Dorgan said a drawback to that is often the granting of a variance is subjective and up to the will of the governing body.
“It would be nice, he added, “to have something that says, ‘as long as I stay within my original footprint, I do not need to ask for a variance but if I want to extend the footprint in one way or another, I need to go to the variance board.’”
“It’s something to sink your teeth into as to how you want me to proceed,” said Metz.
The commission, in any case, agreed to tackle the matter in the coming months with an eye toward possibly amending certain aspects of it where necessary.
Code enforcement talk
In other news, the question of code enforcement and who should provide it was a topic for additional discussion from the meeting on Feb. 4.
Tied in with that is the separate matter of the duties and responsibilities of permits, codes and inspection duties which fall under the aegis of the town’s building department which currently contracts with the county to provide those services.
Commissioner Dave Will, who heads up the town’s building and enforcement issues, apprised the rest of the commission of its options.
Mark Davis, director of Public Works, currently handles matters of code enforcement, but will be retiring by the end of the year.
Will cited several possible scenarios including contracting with either a private firm that would also provide building services allowing for a possible reduction in costs or teaming up with a nearby municipality such as Madeira Beach that contracts with Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office for its code enforcement services.
In terms of compliance, Commissioner Mark Deighton noted, “There’s the tendency for people to really take a deputy seriously,” indicating he would be interested in learning more about those services from Madeira Beach and possibly going that route.
Simons, however, noted that unlike some of its neighboring towns that have more commercial activity, Redington Beach is mainly residential so utilizing county code enforcement services might not prove cost effective.
“Until we know what the sheriff’s numbers are, it might be in our best interest to hire a part-time code enforcement officer or maybe a retired police officer who is looking for part-time work,” Simons said.
In terms of issuing building permits and providing inspections, the town currently contracts for those services with Pinellas County Building Department.
Under the current agreement, all permit fees generated go to the county.
In addition, the town bears all the liability, as was the case two years ago when a 25,000 settlement was handed over to a resident to whom the county had issued a building permit in error – a mistake brought to light after costly construction had begun and was found to be noncompliant with the town’s codes.
Ultimately, commissioners agreed Will should proceed with obtaining more information about the possibility of hiring a private company to oversee permits and inspections and code enforcement services five days a week.
Why an elephant and not dogs?
Resident, Cathy Murphy, came before the commissions asking why the board agreed to recently grant a resident’s request for an elephant to be allowed on the beach as part of birthday celebration when dogs are prohibited from the beach.
Claudia McCorkle, a Redington Beach resident, sought and received approval from the commission on Feb. 4 to invite a trained elephant who has made appearances in film and television to her 60th birthday party scheduled for May.
“I’m planning a birthday party for my dog in March. Is he allowed on the beach? Can I write a letter to you guys?” Murphy asked.
Simons said, “You can write a letter; we take those on a case-by-case basis … I don’t quite see the comparison between allowing an Asian elephant and dogs on the beach.”
Dogs, he said, are banned from the beach because it is an everyday occurrence and many owners fail to clean up after them.
Murphy then asked if the town maintains the necessary liability should the animal damage any property.
“The town has insurance” said Metz. “I don’t think there’s exclusion for elephants in our insurance policy. We can double check, but if there is an additional expense, we can certainly ask that the citizen pay for that.”