Longboat home height and size rules under assault

Editor & Publisher

The Town Commission and especially the community should be wary of two changes to Longboat Key’s building and zoning codes that threaten to undermine the integrity of the island.

In short, one “text amendment” will allow lightning antennas, rods and appendages to rise six feet and possibly up to 16 feet over the existing 30-foot single-family height limitation.

The devices will look akin to large inverted toilet plungers tacked on the rooftop.


Rules, anyone?

Currently, the rules are the rules, and there is no allowance to stick lightning structures above the 30-foot rule.

In fact, the Town responded two years ago to residents in Country Club Shores who wanted to not allow elevator shafts from being granted an exception to the height rules.

The Commission listened and preserved the character of the island.

Homeowners do not want the landscape marred on Longboat Key. That is part of the Town’s Mission Statement and Vision Plan designed to increase property values and maintain and encourage the aesthetics of the landscape. That is in the end what makes Longboat unique.

Ask and ye shall receive…

So what happened is a homeowner and his builder installed a lightning suppression system that rises 6 feet above the 30-foot tall newly constructed home.

The Town caught the issue and refused issuing a certificate of occupancy. Instead of removing the structure, the builder is sponsoring the legislative change and staff is going along with his plan.

Residents are upset and rightly opposed.

Staff says they will limit the height to six feet, unless there is a “special exception” and then they may allow up to 16 feet. In other words, ask and ye shall receive.


Height of ridiculousness

So here is some sad math: If a home is to be built 30 feet above base flood elevation — which can be as high as 10 or 12 feet off the ground on Longboat Key, there could a wall mass of up to 40 feet.  And then staff wants to allow additional height for lightning protrusions so we are now up to 46 or even 56 feet in the air.

It is ridiculous.

Staff justifies the request by saying other contacted communities do not count lightning suppression systems in height calculations. But staff contacted Anna Maria, Venice and Sarasota.

That is the symptom of exactly what we do not want to do as a Town.

If we are going to go the route of mimicking the County and Anna Maria, then our reason to exist is not served.

We are and always have been about strict zoning, low density — in fact no increases in density — height limitations, daylight planes and strict sign codes. That is what makes Longboat, Longboat.

When I called Sag Harbor and East Hampton, N.Y. — two very beautiful and well-maintained towns with stratospheric property values — both said lightning structures are not an exception to height and would be counted as part of building height. They get it.

Longboat Key needs to remain the kind of community that is a haven, a refuge and unique.


At what price?

After all, residents are paying about $50 million to bury their own power lines primarily for aesthetic reasons. Longboaters are paying $4.3 million so the Town can play around with a town center plan. Why? All for the betterment of this island.

We should all hope the Commission realizes how robust the Longboat real estate market really is these days. Let’s believe they do not think they need to incentivise development and investment by relaxing the very foundations of the rules that add value to our island.


Daylight Plane

Perhaps even more important is the consideration on Monday of amending what is called the Daylight Plane Ordinance.

In essence, the Daylight Plane is an angle applied to all construction that limits through a simple geometric formula how wide and bulky the upper part of a home can be constructed.

It is the main way to limit ugly, big-box homebuilding and preserve the airiness and view corridors between properties,

This too is being targeted. Staff is proposing gutting the process by changing the geometry equation to allow much wider buildings at the top that will loom and possibly shadow neighbors and likely diminish our property values.

The Daylight Plane ordinance is a hallmark of most every premier community.

I am sure we can call around and find towns that allow large, square boxes to be built. But the Longboat Key you have today with modern and large homes that are elevated have all met the existing Daylight Plane.

If this ordinance is modified and watered down, Longboat Key will look less and less like large homes on estate lots and more and more like clustered McMansions.

Let’s hope the wiser members of the Commission workshop and truly take time to not amend and alter what is working.

Why are we fixing things that are not broken? Longboat is not a testing ground or a place where we should be tinkering and dilettantish with our building and zoning codes. We are simply too precious a community.

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Longboat Key News

3 Responses for “Longboat home height and size rules under assault”

  1. This issue is about ALL lightning protection systems. AS it currently stands, the property in question could not install ANY type of system. 12″ rods, Ben Franklin system, Faraday Cage or ESE.
    But current exceptions allow for Satellite dishes, Antennas, and more that are larger and more obtrusive.
    Opinions on Aesthetics should not restrict ANY owner from protecting his property and family.
    If a home is struck by lightning and burns to the ground, will LBK be liable because they have restricted the owner from installing a protection system? There are current ordinances that state that the owner should not be put in UNDO BURDEN to accomodate an exception.
    Redesigning an entire truss system, roof plan, architectural, engineering, etc to lower a structure to allow for a protection system is an unreasonable burden.

  2. Please get the facts correct. the Property in Question does NOT have a 16ft. mast but a 6ft mast.
    the 16 ft exception is to be considered on a case by case exception and varience.

  3. Lynn Larson says:

    Thanks Steve!
    Keep Longboat a very special place for all of us not just those people who think rules and codes are written for others.

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