REDINGTON SHORES — A proposed local law that would help residents make their homes more flood resistant may become the model for similar legislation throughout the state, said Mayor MaryBeth Henderson at the July 31 workshop meeting.

The new town ordinance will exempt certain home renovations from penalties related to the “50 percent rule.” That rule says that if homeowners spend more than 50 percent of the value of their home on a remodeling project, that is treated like new construction and is therefore subject to all the current building regulations. Some of those regulations are very costly to implement, such as the need to elevate a house much higher off the ground than what was required in the past.

The proposed law says renovations that make the home more flood resistant will not be a part of the 50 percent rule. Examples given were installing impact-resistant windows and garage doors, and any hardening of the home against flood and storm damage. Other environment-friendly improvements such as solar panels are also exempted.

“We’ve worked for months on this (ordinance),” Henderson said, especially crediting the assistance of Pinellas County Floodplain Administrator Lisa Foster, who is a town resident, and the help of Federal Emergency Management Agency officials.

Henderson said the ordinance is a pilot program for Redington Shores. “We are a pioneer for the entire state of Florida in doing this, getting residents exemption from the 50 percent rule,” she said.

Commissioner Michael Robinson said, “It is important that people are not penalized for work that needs to be done to make their homes more storm resistant.”

Del Bello Park likely to remain town’s only ‘exercise park’

Each of the town’s three parks has a separate identify. Constitution Park, with its pavilion, volley ball, shuffleboard courts and green spaces, is a park for family gatherings. Spitzer Park, with playground equipment and space to play games, is a children’s park. And Del Bello Park, which features a kayak launch, fishing pier, a one-mile trail and some exercise equipment, is known as an exercise park for older teens and adults.

Each park’s special use “is a good idea and has worked well,” Parks and Recreation Board Chair Michelle Ganio said at the workshop meeting.

The Parks and Rec board had been asked for a recommendation on whether to have some exercise equipment available at Spitzer Park, the children’s park. And also, whether the exercise equipment should all be in one location.

Some residents wanted more than one location to exercise, said Parks and Rec board member Judy LaHaye in comments after the meeting. Lines of people were reported waiting to use the equipment at Del Bello Park, said Cinda Krouk, another Parks Board member.

Michelle Ganio said the Parks and Rec Board was unanimously opposed to placing exercise equipment alongside the playground at Spitzer Park. She said there were three reasons.

First, Spitzer Park was donated for the sole purpose of a child’s playground, she said. Child safety is another concern. Exercise equipment is made of steel. The grounds at Spitzer Park are uneven, and children could slip or trip and injure themselves on the equipment or by playing on it, Ganio said.

Having adults come to exercise at the park also poses risks, Ganio said.

Spitzer Park is a children’s park. Kids come there to use the playground, and play tag, football, soccer and other games. Adults there alone stand out, with the question asked, ‘Why are they here?’” said Ganio. She said there are five registered sex offenders in Redington Shores.

“Child safety is a big reason the Parks and Rec Board did not want exercise equipment at Spitzer Park,” Ganio said.

She said the board was also united in recommending that all the exercise equipment should be in one park, Del Bello, the exercise park. There is already a Joy Rider, Double Skier, and Double Air Walker there, she said. And plenty of additional space to add more equipment.

Commissioner Jeff Neal said resident feedback is welcome to see if additional exercise equipment is needed.

“If we get a lot of people wanting this, I’ll work for it,” Neal said. He also said the child safety issue alone convinced him not to put exercise equipment at Spitzer, the children’s park.

The issue will be discussed further, and decisions made, at a future commission meeting.

Sewer fee billing may change

Residents may see changes in their sewer bills. The commission is looking to switch from a flat fee, based on the number of bathrooms, to a charge based on water usage, or a combination of the two.

Also, increases in the sewer treatment fee from the county are coming, Robinson said. The fees are going up 10 percent a year, a 40 percent increase in the next four years. “We’re going to have to deal with that,” said Robinson.

Neal, who handles sewer-related issues, said he used to think resident billing based on usage was “the way to go.” But “now I’m unsure,” he said. Neal said, “I hate to see a family who uses 12,000 gallons of water a year pay the same fee as someone who uses 6,000. But I also hate to see people get a huge increase in their sewer bill.”

Financial Advisory Committee member Chris Henderson said the average homeowner’s sewer bill is a little over $60 every two-month billing period. Henderson said Redington Shores’ flat fee billing “is unique in the county.” He said the FAC is considering a change to a fee that incorporates a base charge plus a fee based on usage of the water coming into the home, which is assumed to be about the same as the sewer water flowing out.

Robinson said, “We need to come up with a formula that is as fair to all of our residents as possible, and also looks at the increase for sewer treatment coming from the county.”

Neal said the financial situation may be helped when the relining and repair of the town’s sewers is completed next year. That project will protect the sewers from water infiltration, and the county charges are based on the mount of sewer water coming through the system, Neal said. “We may get some of the rate increase back from less flow,” he said.

Henderson said the town may “hope for” decreases in sewer volume, but it may not be enough to make up for the county’s 9.5 percent increase in sewer treatment charges.

She added that the Financial Advisory Committee will study the situation further and come back with sewer fee options for the commission to consider.