HOLMES BEACH – To solve rental housing problems, the city should limit square footage, separate duplexes by at least 10 feet and make four other code changes, according to Commissioner Jean Peelen's building code committee.
The committee issued its recommendations in advance of the Tuesday, April 10, commission meeting at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5800 Marina Drive, at 7 p.m., when all commissioners are expected to make their final committee reports on the rental issue.
"I believe our recommendations will stop the giant house problem in its tracks and preserve our quaint, family-friendly neighborhoods," Peelen wrote in the report.
New, large rental houses that have drawn sharp criticism from residents in the past several months violate the city's vision plan and comprehensive plan, according to Peelen.
The vision plan calls Holmes Beach "a unique, environmentally sensitive beach community with a small town atmosphere comprised of low-rise, low-density, mixed income neighborhoods," she wrote, while the comp plan's goals include "that the residential/family character of the city of Holmes Beach is maintained and protected while recognizing the potential for economic benefit resulting from the tourist trade."
That character is being destroyed by new houses with multiple bedrooms, intended not for families but for large groups, according to the report.
"They are out-of-scale, incompatible with the neighborhoods, and certainly do not maintain the residential/family character of Holmes Beach as required by the comprehensive plan. The building codes work group realized that what allowed these giant duplex and even large capacity single family homes to be built was our land development plan… there is nothing in the plan that prohibited it from happening."
Peelen's committee, comprised of Jim Plath, Pam Leckie, Greg Ross, Barbara Marcheck and Terry Parker, made the following recommendations:
• Keep most current building requirements, including setbacks and height limits.
• The city has no limits about house size, and should add floor/area ratio (FAR) requirements for the R-1 district of .35 and for the R-2 district of .30, establishing how much floor space a house or duplex can have on a certain size lot. For example, in R-2, a single family lot must be at least 7,510 square feet. Adopting a FAR of .30, multiply the size of the lot by .30 to determine the maximum square footage of a house, which would be 2,253 square feet. When the city created its vision plan in 1992, the average FAR per house was .20, compared to new rentals at .50 to .73, according to the report.
• Create a requirement that duplex houses that are joined underground should be separated by at least 10 feet.
• Increase the current minimum size for a duplex lot from 8,712 square feet to 10,100 square feet.
• Require a pool setback of 10 feet from the water to the property line.
• Discourage the demolition of ground level houses, encouraging owners and builders to rehab at ground level by allowing variances from the setback requirements.
The recommendations would effectively limit construction of large rentals, especially duplexes, city public works Superintendent Joe Duennes said.
"The real thrust is to take away the hotel atmosphere from the R-2 community," he said, adding that the city commission could adopt the recommendations in its land development code without running afoul of the state building code.
Only about 20 lots would be affected by the requirement to increase minimum lot sizes for duplexes, he said.
The suggestion to allow variances to encourage rehab probably would not be allowed by FEMA, and could jeopardize the city's insurance rating, he said.
Holmes Beach City Attorney Patricia Petruff declined to comment on the recommendations.