ANNA MARIA – Commissioners agreed to hold off on advertising the second reading of the moratorium ordinance and have a special meeting March 15 to define the problem.
The moratorium would stop the issuance of building permits on the construction of new houses or for remodeling, reconfiguring or renovation of existing houses if that would increase the habitable area.
Currently there is an administrative stop on the issuance of building permits. Those owners that received a building permit or site plan approval by Feb. 23 are exempted.
Attorney Jim Dye said he made the expiration date of the moratorium July 31, but commissioners could change it.
Commissioners had differing views on identifying the problem they are trying to resolve with the moratorium.
Commissioner Sue Lynn said she thought it was to focus on large homes being built, but language in the ordinance indicated rentals are the problem.
"What I took away from the discussion at the last meeting, was that there was a concern for a perceived problem with party houses," Dye responded. "Not so much the mass of the houses but what's going inside, and that's how I crafted it."
What's the point?
Dye said the commission should decide the point of the moratorium so staff can address it.
"When you say you're going to change your zoning, you get a tidal wave of building permits because everybody tries to get under the threshold," Chair Chuck Webb pointed out. "We're just saying time out so we can study the issue."
"The size is not a consideration for me; it's all about vacation rentals," Commissioner Dale Woodland stressed.
Webb said the issue is consistent breach of peace problems with rental and party houses. However, because of state legislation, they can't single out rentals and must address the problem city-wide.
Building Official Bob Welch said he met with Mayor Mike Selby and Dye and said, "We're putting together a citation program, and we're working diligently toward enforcement to manage these types of situations. How do you want us to approach it – enforcement or planning?"
Selby said the Florida Building Code is changing March 15, and Welch has three sets of building plans on his desk that were taken in by staff.
"The state law says if you accept plans, you have 30 days to tell people there's a problem," Welsh explained. "After 30 days, if I haven't told them there's a problem, I have to issue the building permit."
Dye said they could make the effective date of the moratorium March 15 and accept the three plans under the current code.
However, Webb said someone could come in with a problematic plan, and Dye responded, "That's the roll of the dice."
Attorney Scott Rudacille representing Erik Abrahamson, of North Shore Drive, stressed, "A moratorium is a very serious action intended to be enacted when the city has come up with a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
"I haven't heard a consensus from this commission as to what the problem is. If the issue is how the houses are being used, the commission ought to take a serious look at the code."
Grant Castilow, of My Green Buildings, read a letter from Claudia and Tom Carlson, of Oregon, who have been preparing for eight years to build their retirement home on Spring Avenue.
"We hope that you will take into consideration the financial commitments we have made and stand to risk if we are forced to delay construction due to the building moratorium," the Carlsons said.
Micheal Coleman and Al Marnie said a moratorium would put a significant financial burden on individuals planning to build homes.
"My family and I are the owners of 60 North Shore Drive that I know was the subject two weeks ago," Scott Eason said. "I feel like this is the fear of the unknown, and I just want to get the facts out on what our intensions are.
"Before we bought this property, we met with the building official and the city planner. The house that was there sat on three separate lots. Our intension is not to build rental houses, but single-family homes."
He said it is the only property in the city they own and he is distressed that the family's purchase of one property is keeping someone from building their retirement home.
Maureen McCormick spoke for the moratorium and pointed out, "There is a problem, and we see it in Holmes Beach and spots of it in our city. We want to avoid that happening to us. A moratorium is not a major hardship for a short time."
Webb said he views the problem as "the erosion of the single-family character of Anna Maria caused by the development of high occupancy vacation rentals."
Commissioners set a special meeting on March 29 for the second reading of the ordinance, if needed.