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Date of Issue: July 09, 2008

City attorney rejects Anna Maria lot-split issues

Anna Maria city attorney Jim Dye has rejected claims, that the city’s controversial zero lot-line ordinance is at odds with the city’s already established codes and recently adopted comprehensive plan.

Jeremy Anderson, of the Sarasota law firm of Lobeck and Hanson, represents William and Barbara Nally of Spring Avenue in their lawsuit against the city over its approval of the Sandbar Restaurant’s site plan.

In a June 26 letter to Mayor Fran Barford, Dye said Anderson’s interpretation of the zero-lot line ordinance is at fault because Anderson claims the ordinance creates duplexes, which are not allowed in the retail-office-residential future land-use category established by the comp plan.

Not so, opined Dye.

The city code allows residential structures to join their roofs and facades provided “no more than two residential structures join in this way and each structure is located on its own platted lot.”

The structures are considered separate for residential density purposes, enjoined Dye, and the ordinance questioned by Anderson “does not allow any more dwelling units to be built than would originally have been allowed” prior to the adoption of the ordinance.

“He interprets this joinder as creating duplexes,” said Dye, and “Mr. Anderson threatens to challenge this ordinance,” possibly in court.

Dye said he “disagreed with Mr. Anderson’s statement that the intensity or density of the district has changed because of the enactment” of the ordinance.

Anderson cites a number of rules of construction that “support his argument,” conceded Dye, but there are other rules that are “contrary” to Anderson’s reasoning.

Included is “one that states that the most recent statement of the legislative body is the best evidence of the body’s intent.”

But Dye also conceded that it might not be worth the city commission’s time, effort and taxpayer money to fight any challenge from Anderson and the Nallys.

The city could focus on a policy discussion and definition of a duplex that “could be adjusted to eliminate any ambiguity reflected by the Nallys’ concerns,” said Dye.

Dye also suggested that the city commission discuss other issues raised by Anderson for property uses on Pine Avenue.

“That would be much more fruitful than defending a legal challenge, which could be remedied by a simple definitional adjustment,” concluded Dye.

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