Longboat home height raises ire, call for code revisions

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A new home at 585 Halyard Lane in Country Club Shores on Longboat Key provoked former Commissioner Randy Clair to write a legal analysis detailing why the construction is in violation of town code. He also says the a site plan may not have been properly evaluated by the town.

At issue is whether an enclosure built above the 30-foot height limitation should have been permitted and if the town is misconstruing an exemption that Clair says was meant for other zoning districts.

The new home is built with a rooftop deck that is within the 30-foot height. According to Planning and Zoning Director Alaina Ray, the code allows air conditioning units, elevator shafts, and stairwells to be exempt from the height limitation and occupy an area up to 15% of the total roof area.

At the new constrction on Halyard Lane, the elevator shaft and stairwell access the deck in a 10-foot high rooftop enclosure that appears similar to an additional story on the house.

Clair in a Nov. 21 memorandum to the town wrote, “I wish to make some comments concerning the above subject and register my objection to this massive elevated building roof structure which is inconsistent with the character of our existing neighborhood and which I believe is in violation of Town of Longboat Key Zoning Code.”

Clair points out that although the code does allow an exception for elevator shafts and mechanical equipment, the matter is supposed to be subject to site plan review considerations.  Claire said the Town could not produce the site plan analysis when he requetsed to see it.

He also points out that the code specifically says “height exceptions should be construed narrowly under the applicable rules of statutory interpretation.”

Clair suggests that the exceptions were originally drafted for commercial, multi-family and tourist flat roof structures because he interprets the fact that elevator shafts, stairwells, and mechanical equipment areas are referred to in the plural form therefore implying more than one, which would not comport with single-family zoning.

Clair suggests the town amend and make clear this section of the code and impose a moratorium to preclude such a situation from occurring again while the issue is studied and resolved.

He concluded that the town commission should adopt a resolution to require the town to immediately revoke the building permit with respect to 585 Halyard Lane.

For Planning and Zoning Director Ray, the town legally must issue building permits since the exceptions in her view, are clearly in the code. Ray added that several homes on Longboat Key over the years have utilized the provision, but this is the first case in Country Club Shores. The reason may be that the homeowner association covenants in Country Club Shores used to preclude the exception and were until recently more stringent than the town’s codes. Ray added that the height exception applies to all zoning districts and the town’s comprehensive plan says that these features are exempt.

“The town can amend the code, but it cannot be retroactive,” said Ray.

Ray said that the town must be very careful in trying to impose things like a moratorium if it does not want to have a Bert Harris claim filed for taking away a property owner’s right.

Commissioner Phill Younger told Longboat Key News that he’s going to ask the town Planning Director and Town Attorney to explain the discrepancies between Clair’s letter and the code at Monday’s regular commission meeting.

Part of Clair’s final issue is that the town could not produce the site plan that was supposed to be used to evaluate the exemption to the height limitation.

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