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Date of Issue: August 23, 2007

Boat lifts, pools, setbacks produce contention by planners

Planners are pondering how and what should be tweaked in the Bradenton Beach codes that allow construction and reconstruction in the city.

The city’s planning and zoning board mulled over several topics within the land-development code last Thursday. A total review of all of the code is expected next year to accompany the city’s new comprehensive plan, once it is approved by city commissioners and the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

On last week’s agenda were several “glitch” matters that building official Steve Gilbert suggested couldn’t wait for the entire review: boat lifts; accessory uses such as pools, spas and sheds; and setbacks for pools and spas.

Boat-lift issues were prompted by a problem a resident faced recently on Bay Drive North, when planners and city commissioners ordered a lift removed because, they said, the boat lift extended too far into the canal.

Planners debated a number of changes to the canal dock-lift matter. Questions by planners regarding navigable channels, channel-width versus dock construction, types of lifts that could or should be allowed until a consensus is reached and they can reach out to a dock expert to collect some thoughts on the matter.

Accessory uses such as pools encroaching farther into setback areas was a particular bone of contention for the P&Z board members. Gilbert suggested allowing pools to nudge within 7 feet of the side- or rear-setback zone, rather than the current 10 feet.

Board member Ernest Clay objected, stating that fire department officials had previously objected to narrowing setbacks due to safety concerns. If there was a fire and firefighters deemed it necessary to drive a truck to the rear of the property to fight it, a narrow passageway would hamper efforts and could endanger lives, he said.

Other members had no problem with the matter.

The swimming pool encroachment matter was also referred, this time to fire and police officials for their input.

The big issue of the evening was placement of pools in front of homes. Again, Clay objected strenuously to the code that allows a pool to be in the front of a house, rather than in the back yard. His argument was that pools would lead to umbrellas and unruly action by poolgoers that would lessen the quality of life of Bradenton Beach residents.

Acting chair Jo Ann Meilner disagreed. “Are we dealing with a vision of the city or human rights?” she asked of front-yard pools.

Board member Joe Garbus agreed with Meilner, stating that “people should be able to do whatever they want” with their property.

The front-yard pool issue was approved.

There was also debate, but no resolution, regarding a 25-foot setback from Gulf Drive for anything other than fences and landscaping, with no real resolution reached by planners.

Gilbert said he would take all comments and present the findings to the city commission for approval to go to a city attorney for drafting of ordinances, which would then return to the P&Z and the public during two hearings and, then, as modified, to the city commission for final ratification. The LDC changes would then go to the state for approval, denial or modification.

In other business, planners discussed a design manual for the city. Although not bound by law, some styles of construction have been identified as desirable by planners, and they agreed to photograph their favorite houses and submit the pictures at a later meeting for placement in the book.

Gilbert also agreed to put together a brief overview of “do and don’t” within the city’s building code for new and remodeled construction to aid property owners and contractors.

The P&Z board also voted unanimously not to merge with the city’s board of adjustment, as had been discussed previously.

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