ST. PETE BEACH — A patio by any other name could be a sidewalk, and run all the way to a property line — but not any more in this coastal city.

During a June 22 meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to amend the city’s Land Development Code so that paved walkways and sidewalks on private property are treated as patios in terms of requirements for side and rear yard setbacks.

“We’re basically trying to close the loophole that patios don’t have to maintain a setback, but sidewalks do,” City Manager Alex Rey explained. “The 2-foot setback should apply to both patios and sidewalks … Right now we have an inconsistency between whether you should call it a patio or you call it a sidewalk … those two things should not be looked at differently. Both have the same impact on drainage, so if we are doing the rule for one we should do it for both or none.”

The change, which one commissioner referred to as “Big Brother-ish,” requires the paved area to be 2 feet or more from the side or rear property line.

Wesley Wright, planning manager, explained there was a concern with having a walkway or sidewalk adjacent to the side or going all the way to the rear without a drainage area.

Staff advised an impervious space provided by the setback is needed to percolate rainwater runoff.

Rey noted sidewalks were not previously included in the definition, so a homeowner “could redefine (their) patio as sidewalk and put it all the way to the end (of the property line.)”

Mayor Al Johnson added, “And then you won’t have a setback at all.”

Commissioner Melinda Pletcher said she looks at the new regulation as dictating how homeowners can use their property “because a lot of people have one side of their yard more utilitarian, (it’s where) they store their paddleboards. They have functionality to their property rights. I think dictating where your impervious surface is, as long as it meets it throughout the entire property, I think is a little Big Brother-ish.”

Commissioners unanimously voted to adopt the change.

Tidal flood mitigation coming to Don CeSar neighborhood in next few months

Residents in the Don CeSar Place neighborhood will finally get their wish this summer as the city attempts to control tidal flooding in their low-lying neighborhood.

City Manager Alex Rey told commissioners, “This is the project that has been really long-awaited by the Don CeSar neighborhood,” Rey said. “What it is doing is basically the construction and reconstruction of seawalls with tidal check valves in five locations, and repair of leaking seawalls in two other locations.”

City commissioners unanimously approved the $627,246 project, with 15 percent contingency bid from Construct Company Inc., for a total authorization of $721,332.

The money will come from the capital and stormwater funds, because some of it is drainage improvements and some reconstruction of seawalls.

Upgrades and instillation should start in July and be completed within 150 days.

Cost of connecting to city’s sewer system increases

Commissioners voted unanimously to increase the cost of connecting to the city’s wastewater collection system from $2,668 to $3,242, an increase of $574, which amounts to a 21.51 percent hike.

Assistant City Manager Vince Tenaglia said the philosophy behind the rate increase is new growth should pay for itself; the rates only apply to new connection fees, when a property hooks into the city’s wastewater collection system.

Tenaglia explained the current fee of $2,668 was developed in March 2017, when wastewater connection fees were increased by 90 percent, prior to finalizing costs associated with the wastewater capacity improvement project.

At that time the increase was based on an estimated $11 million cost incurred by the sewer capacity improvement project; it was also estimated that 1,230 new connections would be realized.

However, in January 2020, the city actually authorized a sewer capacity improvement project for $15.6 million. The city also has to consider future costs associated with pump stations and force mains, he said.

In addition, the new estimate is the collection system will feel the impact of 3,400 new hookups during the next five to ten years. “With a lot more costs and a lot more growth, those characteristics require that we reevaluate the wastewater connection fees,” Tenaglia told commissioners.

Commissioner Mark Grill said, “This increase still keeps us competitive for attracting development as we go forward. We’re not just doing this to collect money, it’s to make sure we have the right infrastructure to keep us a competitive place for investors to come and people to come and invest.”