HOLMES BEACH – Impressions that residences in Holmes Beach are getting bigger and have more bedrooms are true, according to City Planner Bill Brisson, who reported the statistics to the Holmes Beach Commission last week.
“It’s not your imagination,” he said.
The city’s character was consistent from the 1970s to about 2009, he said, defining character as when at least two-thirds of residences are similar in style. In 2009, larger homes with more bedrooms began to multiply, he said.
Bigger homes with more bedrooms have caused more problems, Brisson said; the commission has been struggling to address noise, parking, overcrowding and trash complaints for months without running afoul of a new state law prohibiting local rental regulations.
One example is on 81st Street, where Barbara Hines makes her home. She changed bedrooms, moving her master bedroom to the back of her home to get away from noisy renters, she said.
“People when they’re on vacation don’t realize they’re in a place where real people work, live and have their lives,” she said. “I don’t think you’ve reached the tipping point yet, but that’s where you’re headed.”
Although most problems are occurring in short-term vacation rentals, the commission would have to limit all rentals, not just short-term rentals, to solve them, Brisson said, suggesting a new concept – Living Area Ratio, or LAR.
LAR, not FAR
LAR is similar to Floor Area Ratio (FAR), which the commission has been debating for several weeks.
A FAR requirement establishes how much floor area a single family house or duplex can have on certain lot sizes, while LAR includes only livable space, usually air conditioned, excluding garages and screened porches, among other areas.
The commission has not determined a fair FAR number that would allow enough room for growing families, but would restrain multi-bedroom vacation rental party houses that are disrupting neighborhoods.
A number previously discussed by the commission has been .3, or about a third of the total lot size dedicated to floor space.
A LAR requirement may be more workable, said Brisson, who looked at the 463 single family houses and 601 duplexes in the R-2 district.
From 1922 to 1979, LARs were .22 or less, Brisson said. From 1980 to 1989, LARs began to increase, reaching .27 in the 1990s, he said.
By 2011, LARs had reached .44, a dramatic increase, he said, adding that the number of bedrooms had increased to 4.6 per home, compared to two-bedroom duplexes characteristic of the city in the past.
Singling out duplexes, the numbers are even higher.
From 1922 to 1999, most of the district’s LARs were .33 or lower, reaching .46 by 2006 and .51 by 2011, he said.
The statistics would justify a decision by the commission to enact an LAR requirement, Brisson said.
The commission must decide if the character change in the city is significant enough to merit action, and if so, whether a LAR requirement would solve the problem, he said.
If the commission decides to limit the size of structures, a LAR of .45 may work, said Brisson, who plans to make another report to the commission on Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m., with a definite recommendation.
“The change in character is troubling a lot of people,” Commissioner Jean Peelen said, citing a 10-year-old vision plan in which the city expressed a desire to keep low density housing.
“There will be more if everything is allowed to continue,” Brisson said.
In other business:
City Attorney Patricia Petruff advised the commission that no gap rentals are allowed in the seven-day minimum rental district. Owners can rent units for less than seven days at a seven-day rate, but can’t advertise or rent for less than seven days, she said.
Peelen had questioned why the code enforcement officer had not cited the owner of a website advertising gap rentals. “Saying ‘Stop that’ is not good enough,” she said.
Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said building inspector Bob Shaffer is being trained to handle code enforcement complaints. Peelen asked whether that would be a conflict of interest, since he may have permitted some of the buildings that would be the subject of complaints.
Petruff said subsequent owners sometimes change a building after Shaffer inspects it, but that if something was overlooked in an inspection, it would be a civil court issue.
The commission decided to send to the planning commission a draft ordinance to prohibit pool slides longer than six feet.