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Saturday, Aug, 2, 2014
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Whitehead appeals decision before it's made

Brent Whitehead of Whitehead Construction jumped the gun. He came to the city commission work session to dispute a "likely" decision by Assistant Superintendent of Public Works Bill Saunders.

Whitehead told the commission that he is currently gridlocked on plans for a Gulffront property and unless the city allows the Gulffront setback to be measured from the mean high water line, his client is faced with requesting a variance.

Whitehead said Saunders told him that the city measures the Gulffront setback from the established erosion control line.

Saunders said that the mean high water line is not a fixed line and variables such as a beach renourishment project can change the line, but the erosion control line is a fixed line. "You won't find erosion upland of the erosion control line," Saunders explained. "I like it since it's the most stable line."

Whitehead's dispute stems from the city's code, which he says still states the city can take the measurement from the mean high water line if it chooses.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff sighed, then said that this is yet another example of why the city's codes need to be updated.

Petruff agreed with Saunders that the mean high water line can be artificially altered. She said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection indicates the property boundary at the erosion control line, although it used to be the mean high water line, and she supports the city’s use of the erosion control line as the boundary line.

Petruff also stated that there is a "complicated methodology" in attempting to get the DEP to certify a mean high water line. She said the final determination usually winds up equivalent to the erosion control line anyway.

Petruff said the DEP would support Saunders determination to measure the property boundary at the erosion control line and, if the commission overturned it, Whitehead would be required to get the mean high water line certified by the state.

Saunders interrupted, stating there has not yet been an official rejection by the city. The entire dispute resulted from a phone conversation with Whitehead.

Petruff said an appeal can be made after a plan is denied, or if Saunders made an official determination that adversely affects the party.

In this case neither actually happened.

Saunders said he would put his official interpretation of the code in writing to save Whitehead the trouble of going through an application and having it denied.

Petruff also recommended that the commission put plans to start a comprehensive update of its land-development code on its next agenda.

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