HOLMES BEACH – Reversing a previous decision after getting input from their planner, commissioners agreed to continue to allow each half of a duplex to have its own swimming pool.
“We agree with comments made by (Manatee) County Commissioner Carol Whitmore regarding the fact that such a regulation may tend to make two-family structures less attractive to those who wish to reside in the city on a permanent or semi-permanent basis and, therefore, may result in encouraging two-family units to be used primarily for short-term rentals purposes. We also believe that developers will find a way around the regulation,” City Planner Bill Brisson said in a memo.
Commissioner Judy Titsworth, who has spearheaded the effort for one pool, agreed with Brisson and said, “We’re trying to get residents back.”
She asked if they could have different setbacks for new and existing homes.
“I think that would be problematic,” City Attorney Patricia Petruff replied. “What is the rational nexus? In October, the commission agreed that a 5-foot setback for pools is adequate.
“To now say for ground level, existing duplexes we’ll only require 5, but for homes built according to FEMA regulations, we’ll require 10. I’m not seeing how to justify the difference.”
Back to the issue
Chair Jean Peelen pointed out that they are addressing the issue of one or two pools, not setbacks, and that a 10-foot setback could eliminate the possibility of a pool on a 50 by 100-foot lot.
“Especially in the R-2 district, most ground level homes are non-conforming,” Commissioner David Zaccagnino added. “If they want to put in a pool and doing renovations and have to meet the 10-foot setbacks, they’re more likely to tear down the house and build up.”
Titsworth said she also wants to limit single-family lots to one pool. She said a neighbor with a large lot demolished a ground-level home and built two homes, each with a pool, because he didn’t have enough frontage to subdivide the lot.
“I get that you don’t like what happened next door, but I don’t know that we can do that,” Petruff replied. “What they did was legal in accordance with our current code.
“If you don’t like the idea of having more than one house on a lot, just take away the ability to to that. Don’t try to go around it with the swimming pool and take way their right to build accessory structures.”
Zaccagnino said the problem is in the R-2 district, not the others, and Titsworth agreed to limit her motion to R-2.
Pervious or impervious?
Commissioner Marvin Grossman said he has a problem with an owner filling the yard with pool and deck so there is no landscaping, and he favors a 10-foot setback to allow for more landscaping. He also questioned whether pools should be counted as pervious surface.
Petruff said pools are exempt from the 40 percent impervious surface that is allowed on a lot because they collect stormwater.
“It wouldn’t make sense to require them to be counted as coverage in R-2, but not in the other districts,” Petruff pointed out. “The LAR will reduce the footprint of the house, leaving more land for accessory structures.
“If you change lot coverage and setbacks, you’re piling on a lot of impacts. Before you do that, you need to have an understanding of what it will do to your basic duplex lot.”
She said at some point, they will “hit a tipping point and be inundated with Bert Harris lawsuits, where people will say we have unfairly burdened their property.”
According to the Bert Harris Act, “When a specific action of a governmental entity has inordinately burdened an existing use of real property or a vested right to a specific use of real property, the property owner of that real property is entitled to relief, which may include compensation for the actual loss to the fair market value of the real property caused by the action of government, as provided in this section.”
Getting the facts
“Why are we here? Because of pools, because of noise, because of drainage?” Zaccagnino asked. “We’re adding another expensive, new law that won’t accomplish the end result and will affect everybody in the city.”
Petruff agreed and said, “You’re talking about this issue in a vacuum. You don’t have the facts you need to make an informed decision.
“You don’t know how many houses you have in a particular situation with respect to setbacks. If you enact a new law, you may cause a severe problem.”
Peelen stressed that they only are considering duplex lots, and Petruff asked if they change the setback to 10 feet, how could they justify that it’s 5 feet everywhere else?
“If we’re regulating pools, then what’s good for a pool in R-2 is good for a pool in R-1,” Petruff said. “If we’re regulating something else, let’s be honest about what we’re regulating.”
Mayor Carmel Monti agreed with Petruff and suggested they keep the setback at 5 feet until they can evaluate the impacts of changing it.
Peelen instructed Petruff to ‘do it,” prompting Petruff to quip, “Lucky for me there’s nothing to do.”