Hardship provision added to building moratorium

Hardship provision added to building moratorium
City officials are concerned about construction site parking, staging areas and the impact new construction is having on the city’s infrastructure. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – The 60-day temporary emergency building moratorium enacted Wednesday, March 4 now includes a new hardship provision to allow some projects to break ground despite the moratorium.

The emergency moratorium prohibits the city of Anna Maria’s building department from processing new building permit applications for the construction of a new single-family home. The emergency moratorium also applies to the renovation of an existing home that increases the square footage or lot coverage. The emergency moratorium applies to all such projects not in the city’s permitting pipeline as of March 4.

The emergency moratorium does not apply to swimming pool permits or renovations that do not increase square footage or lot coverage.

To be followed by a six-month, non-emergency moratorium, the building moratorium gives the city time to study the potential implementation of impact fees that would be charged to builders upon the completion of their projects, according to city officials. Impact fees would help the city offset the impacts new construction, including large vacation rental homes, is having on city streets, drainage, stormwater projects, recreational facilities and more.

A moratorium also gives the city time to review and revise the existing building codes that no longer accomplish the city’s intended goal, and to implement new codes to address construction site parking and staging areas, construction delivery times and other issues not currently addressed by city code.

The city also wants to reduce the time it takes for builders to get their projects permitted.

Hardship waiver

In response to the initial industry reaction to the emergency building moratorium, the commission’s Thursday, March 12 adoption of Ordinance 20-865 added the hardship waiver process to the 60-day moratorium.

A hardship waiver, if granted, would allow a not-yet-permitted project to begin the permitting process and begin construction while the building moratorium is in effect.

Each hardship waiver request will be granted or denied by Mayor Dan Murphy on a case-by-case basis. Those who wish to challenge a waiver denial can appeal to the city commission, whose ruling would be final.

According to the ordinance, an application for a waiver must include the following:

  • A complete building permit application and complete building plans;
  • The basis for the hardship, which may include the reason or reasons the permit application was not yet submitted;
  • The intended use of the house to be built;
  • Whether the applicant is currently a resident of Anna Maria or intends their new home to be their permanent residence;
  • Any other basis for a finding of hardship.

Applicants have until Tuesday, March 31 to request a hardship waiver.

Commissioner Jon Crane said he doesn’t want hardship waivers automatically rubber-stamped.

Crane and Commissioner Carol Carter said those seeking waivers need to verify and prove their hardship.

The commission adopted Ordinance 20-865 by a 4-1 vote, with Crane voting in opposition.

Public input

During public input, Moss Builders co-owner Jim Moss provided an example of a legitimate hardship.

Moss said he has a female client who is selling her home up north and wants to move to Anna Maria. Moss said she already bought her property, hired a contractor, engineer and architect and took out a construction loan to build her new “dream home.”

Moss said the woman already took her first draw on the construction loan and he previously anticipated starting the city permitting process in approximately two weeks.

Moss also said significant changes made to the existing building codes could destroy his client.

He noted that a couple of commissioners recently built new homes and he hopes they don’t impose codes that are more restrictive than those in place when they built their homes.

“Treat your neighbor as yourself,” Moss told the commission.

Extended moratorium on the way

The emergency moratorium provides the commission the time needed to enact a six-month temporary building moratorium.

First read on March 4, the six-month moratorium’s enabling ordinance, Ordinance 20-864, will be reviewed by the Planning and Zoning board before it returns to commissioners for second reading and final adoption.

As currently written, the six-month moratorium would prohibit new pool permits. Public input provided by builders and others during the upcoming planning board and city commission hearings will help craft the final language that establishes the six-month moratorium.