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Seawall policy direction grows murky on LBK

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Last month, Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Staff presented several amendments to the regulations governing seawall height and construction as the Town Commission delved into the matter. Several issues arose including: should taller and more extensive seawalls be allowed and encouraged or should coastal armoring be discouraged? Should those without seawalls be allowed to install them? Should mangroves and rock revetments be encouraged? How does all of the above relate to sea level rise, roads and infrastructure levels and existing conditions?

The genesis of changing the code is the push by residents and some staff to allow for additional seawall height because of flooding and storm surges breeching the seawalls.

Town Staff received direction two years ago from the commission to amend the code to allow additional height because of the increasingly tangible and quantifiable sea level rise predictions. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sea levels are rising on average 1/8 of an inch per year.

Currently, Town Code allows up to six inches of additional height above adjacent sea walls.

Another issue the Town Staff is attempting to fix with the code is to allow sea walls to project further into the canal due to the dimensions of most new seawall panels and the repairs to seawalls that have kicked out or tilted. Many departures have been granted by the Town Manager due to seawalls tilting and kicking out and violating the rule that says that no additional projection beyond six inches from the face of an existing seawall is allowed.

At the workshop last month, the commission did not reach agreement or consensus on a maximum  height that it wanted to allow homeowners to be allowed to construct seawalls. Many commissioners needed more information and input.

After discussion, it was decided last month that staff would proceed in a two-step manner. The first step, will occur at the Monday, May 7 commission meeting when limited changes to the repair and replacement only of existing seawalls will be considered by the commission.

The second step is for staff to bring a more comprehensive review of seawalls, shoreline protection and coordinate its review with Public Works for a more substantive discussion on overall seawall policy.

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