How high and how big should we build?

Guest Writer

Two issues will be under discussion this Tuesday night at the Town Commission; Should lightning rods be exempt from the current 30 foot height restrictions and should homes be allowed to loom closer to lot lines.

Both controversial code changes were approved by the LBK Planning and Zoning Board.

The first amendment would allow lightning rods, up to 16 feet tall, to exceed the 30  foot building height restriction. Under current building codes this would allow new houses to soar up to 48 feet in the air under some circumstances.

Another amendment is a change in the daylight sight plane (from 50 or 62 degrees from lot lines to 75 degrees), sometimes called a “Pyramid Law”. This would allow bigger and bulkier homes to be built closer to the lot lines. If passed, this change would allow taller behemoths to loom over their shorter neighbors and single story residents.

Many affluent resort towns have strict codes to protect the daylight plane.The resort town of  East Hampton will only allow houses to be built within a 45 degree angle to the lot line.

Pete Rowan of Keep Longboat Special, a 1400 member organization, said  “In the past, homes would be designed so there wasn’t a straight 2 story wall close to the lot line, so the shadow did not cast very far onto a neighboring home. With the angle change, the new home could be closer to the lot line and straight up, casting a larger shadow and loom over a neighbor even more. In our Longboat neighborhoods, many homes are low, on grade, original structures – these properties should be protected with the existing code and not made worse with this proposed code change.”

The lightning rod code change was brought up by John Barber, who sells lightning rods from a shop in Sarasota. He says he has sold 200 rods in LBK, mostly in condo buildings. In the past the LBK Building Department did not enforce the height restrictions. Barber is applying for Boris Miksic’s home at 640 Halyard Lane in Country Club Shores.

Barber says “this is about the rights of owners to choose how to protect their property. There are 149 complaints about the system on the Planning Board site, but it’s all about aesthetics. It’s about, I got mine, you can’t have yours.”

Lynn Larson, who is president of her homeowners Association, has sought for years to keep to the town’s 30-foot height limit with no add ons or exceptions.

“When you look out on the horizon, what do you want to see? Blue sky or a sea of lightning rods?”

No doubt Florida is one of the hot spots in the U.S. for lightning strikes. But, according to the LBK Fire Department, they have not had any calls in the last five years in response to a house fire due to a lightning strike. They have had 5 lightning strikes in the last five years which resulted in brush fires.

“It’s an island wide code change” says Larson, “We are not against a justified variance for individual houses, but this code change is an entitlement that would affect every house on the island.”

“There are other ways of protecting houses from lightning. The standard lightning rod is only 12 inches tall and works very well.”

Larson says “The town only had the salesman for the equipment testify.  They spoke to nobody else at the P &Z hearing. Phil Younger made a motion to hire an expert to look at the facts.  This request was ignored.”

Five Associations have hired a lightning expert, Professor Vladimir Rako, from the University of Florida to testify on their behalf at the Commission hearing this week. He said, “Tall masts (72 inches)  do not offer any advantages in residential homes over the standard 12 inch high lightning rods”

One expert said that the tall masts for lightning rods in residential buildings have been oversold and characterized much of the marketing as “junk science”.

The LBK News surveyed a dozen lightning rod companies that work in Florida, and all recommended the standard lightning rod, which is only 12 inches tall. Below is a typical answer from one company:

“There are no masts for the lightning rods (also known as air terminals).  If it is installed during construction, it can be concealed by running the cables on the interior.  Otherwise, it is installed with the cables being as discreet as possible.”

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Longboat Key News

2 Responses for “How high and how big should we build?”

  1. domsovetoff says:

    Keep and enforce the current code.

  2. Lynn Larson says:

    Keep and enforce the current code.

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