REDINGTON SHORES — A requirement that waterfront homes in this coastal community be built a minimum of 25 feet behind the Coastal Construction Control Line must be followed. There will be no exceptions, and the town code will not be changed to reduce the setback requirement.
That consensus decision by the commission came at its Oct. 30 workshop meeting in response to a resident couple’s request for a lesser setback that would let them build a larger home on their property.
Resident Carol Muszik said variances for lower setbacks than the code requires had been granted over the past 25 years by two former building officials. Muszik said at least six property owners on her street, including Mayor MaryBeth Henderson, had been allowed setback reductions from the mandated 25 feet to 18 feet, as she and her husband are requesting. They bought the property on Lee Avenue with the intention to tear down the existing house and build a large new home.
The home currently on the lot is “totally out of compliance,” Muszik said, while the new home they want to build would be “totally compliant” if the reduced setback from the CCCL were allowed.
But county Floodplain Administrator Lisa Foster, who is also a Redington Shores resident, said if a variance is granted, the town “could be in big trouble” with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Building closer to the coastline is not a responsible thing to do,” Foster said.
Also present at the meeting was Neal Mazzei, a contracted building official doing work for the town. He said Redington Shores could lose its good score in FEMA’s Community Rating System if they changed the code to allow houses to be built closer to the coastline.
A lot of CRS points are given for open space requirements, Mazzei said, and that includes the 25-foot setback from the CCCL. Any reduction in that could lower the town’s current “6” CRS rating, which gives residents and businesses a 20 percent discount on flood insurance.
If the town approves variances that negatively impact open space, Mazzei said, they could be put on probation and possibly lowered to a “10” rating, which would mean no discount.
“As a resident here I’m worried about the whole town,” said Leslee Coppock. “I’m not worried about what (various individuals) have done.” Coppock, who is a real estate agent, said if the town were to lose its CRS rating it would make home ownership less affordable.
The increase in flood insurance rates would be “catastrophic,” she said.
Henderson said prior decisions to grant variances that allowed residents to build within 18 feet of the Coastal Construction Control Line were done in error by previous town building officials.
“According to our code, you can’t grant any variances from the CCCL line, period. The only way to allow reduced setbacks is to change the code,” the mayor said. “The CCCL line is nonnegotiable, according to our Comprehensive Plan.”
Commissioner Michael Robinson said, “I can’t help it that we made mistakes in the past. All I can do is look forward to the future, and I’m not of a mind to continue to perpetuate mistakes.”
Commissioner Jeff Neal also said he did not think the code should be changed.
Commissioner Tom Kapper, who at first said the town should “go with the precedent that’s been set” and grant a variance, subsequently agreed that the 25-foot setback from the CCCL should not be changed. He added, “We should not even take the money for a variance application. We should just tell them, ‘You’re not going to get it.’”
Sewer line upkeep by residents
The commission also agreed to look at creating an ordinance that would require property owners to maintain the lateral sewer lines that run from their house to the main sewer line.
Neal, who is responsible for sewer line projects in the town, said St. Petersburg is planning to adopt such a law “and we need to do this too.”
“Everything we are doing with the main lines to stop the water infiltration won’t mean anything if we don’t take care of the private lateral lines,” Neal said.
Quite a few of the private lines in town have rotted, Neal said. If the town inspector notices any unusual evidence of sewer leakage, such as water bubbling up in the yard, the ordinance would require the homeowner to have the sewer line checked by a licensed plumber and a copy of the results sent to the town. The average cost to replace the lateral line to a home is about $1,000, Neal said.
Robinson said he had read the proposed St. Petersburg ordinance the town hopes to use as a guide, and said, “It looks good. I agree with it.”
Maintaining the lateral lines “is a very important thing,” said Kapper. “The sewers need to flow. By maintaining them now, we won’t have a big problem in the future.”
The commission agreed to wait until the St. Petersburg ordinance is finalized, then make minor modifications to create an ordinance for Redington Shores.
Flood control project list
Projects to control local flooding are presented to the county each year for possible grant funding. Redington Shores currently has six projects on the list out of a total of 300 submitted by all of the county municipalities.
Robinson said this year’s list of “Local Mitigation Strategy” projects has been reduced. Among the projects on the list are stormwater backflow valves costing $24,000 for six, which minimize flooding in low-lying areas during heavy rain and high tides; $150,000 for a beach erosion management plan to extend the existing dune system and walkovers; and $8,000 to hire a consultant to review upgrades to the Flood Management Plan.
There was also a multimillion-dollar project to rebuild the stormwater drainage system, which Robinson recommended removing from the list. “Once we do an analysis of what needs to be done, we can add a more appropriate project back,” he said.
New on the list was the purchase of two emergency generators to provide power to lift stations during storms and other emergencies.
Some of the LMS projects may be chosen for grant funding, Robinson said. The others must be paid for by the town if they are to be done, he said.