ANNA MARIA – The city commission wants to limit the size of new buildings, and it placed an administrative moratorium into effect until it can decide on whether to limit home dimensions in relation to the size of their lots or lower the allowed building height 10 feet to 27 feet.
The Thursday work session agenda had four suggested solutions to the plethora of large, multi-bedroom houses being built to service renters more than families. The first was the first reading of an ordinance that would spell out the amount of coverage allowed by a house as prescribed by the size of the home’s lot.
City Planner Alan Garrett presented the proposed ordinance that would limit the size of the house to 20 percent of the first 5,000 square feet, 10 percent of the second 5,000 square feet and 2 percent for any area above 10,000 square feet. For example, he said, a 15,000-square-foot lot could hold a 3,200-square-foot house. The formula is similar to one used by Venice and Sanibel.
Commissioner Gene Aubry, an architect, said the new homes are out of scale for the older houses and they should be reducing the allowable height of the buildings. He said the new houses don’t cause a problem; it’s the people that own and rent them that cause problems.
He said the new houses lack style, and the city should require an architect’s stamp on non-commercial buildings.
Commissioner Dale Woodland said making the dimensions of the house smaller is one way to guarantee more two-story over elevation houses. If they can’t go out, they will go up.
Commissioner Chuck Webb asked about having an architectural review board, and Aubrey said they are generally “a pain in the neck. It’s all about taste. One thing happening now is the generation is smart, and they are building smaller.”
Commission Chair John Quam asked about lowering the homes. The height restriction in Anna Maria is 37 feet, and Quam suggested 27 feet.
Aubry said at 37 feet tall, the buildings on Pine Avenue would give the commercial district a canyon effect.
“We have to keep the scale down, and 27 feet is plenty high,” he said, adding the city should not strictly enforce the height restriction if the homeowner wants to go a little higher. “If we go 27 feet and they want to add a widow’s walk on top, don’t penalize them if the railing is higher than that.”
Building Official Bob Welch said he prefers 27 feet because when a storm hits, the taller the structure, the more the damage.
“I think I would have died and gone to heaven with 27 feet,” said Spring Avenue resident Jill Morris.
“The 27-foot height would take care of a lot of the problems,” said resident Katherine Miller.
Longtime resident Tom Turner suggested the 27-foot height limit and a 30 percent lot coverage limit.
Former Mayor Gary Deffenbaugh agreed with the height limit.
“If you can’t live in a house of that size, maybe you should live in another town,” he said.
“Are we absolutely sure 27 is enforceable and won’t be challenged?” asked Ed Hassler. “I think this is a rational approach as long as we’re on stable footing.”
Sharon Talbot said she had problems telling everyone what a correctly sized house should be.
“One man’s castle is another man’s doublewide,” she said.
Jeanne Deem suggested the city initiate a moratorium, too.
Mayor SueLynn asked if the city is risking litigation by lowering the height allowance.
Webb said if the land buyer did so to build a profitable investment, there might be a problem with a taking of his rights to develop his land to its full potential. He asked for any lawyer in the audience with a case like that to e-mail it to him.
Woodland asked about a moratorium, and Webb said it’s good for the city. They would have time to get everything in order. Woodland said he would limit the moratorium to the 27-foot height issue.
The commission agreed on an administrative moratorium starting immediately, but it would have to adopt an ordinance.
Lot coverage will remain 40 percent for one floor and 30 percent for two floors.