Building moratorium will expire soon

Moratorium expiring
Mayor John Chappie and Vice Mayor Marilyn Maro discuss the extension of the building moratorium. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – Despite an appeal from a city commissioner, Bradenton Beach’s voter-initiated building moratorium will expire on Wednesday, March 7.

On behalf of some of her constituents, Commissioner Marilyn Maro requested the moratorium be extended for three more months, but legal justification for another extension could not be made during the Thursday, March 1 City Commission meeting.

Maro’s agenda request included a handwritten note from the “People of Bradenton Beach” seeking more regulations and additional adjustments to the land development code before the moratorium is lifted.

“We want to see an end to all party houses. We want our neighborhoods back,” the note said.

In Nov. 2016, a voter referendum mandated the commission enact a six-month moratorium on the issuance of building permits for homes containing more than four bedrooms or potential sleeping rooms. The moratorium was extended several times to allow the commission more time to develop rental regulations and other regulations intended to limit the impact vacation rentals have in residential neighborhoods.

The possibility of another extension prompted a hand-delivered letter written by attorney Aaron Thomas on behalf of the Najmy-Thompson law firm that represents several Bradenton Beach property owners.

At the request of Thomas and Mayor John Chappie, City Attorney Ricinda Perry read the letter aloud when last week’s discussion began.

“The Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act provides a cause of action for temporary impacts on development lasting more than one year. The initial moratorium went into effect Nov. 8, 2016, well over one year ago. While the city may currently be susceptible to Bert Harris claims under this temporary impact on development provision, an extension of the moratorium for an additional three months will only solidify this fact. Should you elect to extend the moratorium an additional three months the city will undoubtedly be subject to a number of Bert Harris claims for which a monetary settlement will be the only reasonable settlement for our clients. Given this, we urge the commission to vote against the three-month extension,” the letter said.

Perry said she disagreed with the assertion that the city was currently at risk of Bert Harris claims – in part because city voters enacted the moratorium – but she agreed the city would be at risk if the moratorium was extended again.

Chappie and Commissioner Ralph Cole both noted Bradenton Beach is the only Island city not to be named in a Bert Harris claim.

“We are pleased the city made this decision,” Thomas said. “It was only to their benefit to do so. Many of our clients who have investment property in Bradenton Beach are optimistic about the city’s new leaders making fair and well-balanced decisions with respect to the vacation rental home market within the city.”

Commission discussion

Maro referenced the residents’ requests for another extension and said, “They just don’t want party houses. They’d said there’s still too many people in these houses, we’re talking 20 to 30 people. There’s still a few things that need to be adjusted.”

Perry, Chappie and City Planner Alan Garrett each expressed their views that staff, the Planning and Zoning Board and the commission had done all it set out to do when the moratorium was enacted and another extension could not be justified.

Since enacting the moratorium, the commission adopted a revised version of the original vacation rental regulations adopted in 2015 but never implemented. That registration program is underway and the new regulations take effect March 19.

Occupancy limits are established by the air conditioning load determined according to the Florida Building Code. According to Building Official Steve Gilbert, this basically equates to the same two people per bedroom plus two additional guests limits established in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach.

Bedrooms must now be labeled and adhered to when submitting building applications and rental registrations.

Side-yard trash pickup will soon be required of non-owner-occupied rentals and parking requirements have been increased. Noise complaints will be enforced by the police department as they are for any other home or business.

Pool setbacks for all residential properties have been increased and pools will now be counted as impervious surfaces when calculating the 40 percent maximum lot coverage.

Historic preservation    

The commission unanimously supported Cole’s previously-made suggestion that the commission now pursue a historic preservation ordinance similar to the city of Anna Maria’s. The intent is to encourage property owners to preserve traditional cottages and bungalows rather than demolish them and replace them with larger homes to be used as vacation rentals. A historic preservation designation helps homeowners offset the FEMA 50 percent redevelopment limits that often make it easier to build a new house than improve an old one.