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A bunch of mumbo jumbo

By Staff | Sep 2, 2009

To the editor,

We now have a proposed amendment to Sec. 86-43. The Planning Commission (PC) members and the Planning Director and staff have spent many hours in preparing the proposed Ordinance 09-011. It represents what they think is best for the future of our city. They are to be thanked for their efforts.

I partially agree with two major provisions in the proposed Ordinance. They are:

1. “To establish a “neighborhood floor area threshold” as a review process determinant, but not as a limit on the size of a single family or duplex dwelling unit.

2. “The identification, by map, of what constitutes a neighborhood.” I suggest any gulf or bay front lots should not be included with any off water neighborhoods. Why not list them as a separate neighborhood. There is no compatibility today with existing on water and off water developments.

I do, however, suggest the process – other than the two previously mentioned items – was an unfortunate waste of time and effort. What was the city’s policy prior to the current proposal? Sec. 86-43 which states “no structure shall be constructed… so as to interrupt the rhythm of existing structures…”

The proposed 17-page amendment, Ordinance 09-011 does nothing to remove the necessity of the exercise of personal taste, in determining what meets the provisions of Sec. 86-43. It does use a new term i.e., “community compatibility.” Am I the only one to interpret compatibility as the equivalent of conformity?

In an effort to make the amended Sec. 86-43 more of an objective test (an effort that fails), the PC has developed a list of architectural items to define what would be suitable to them. Examples i.e., Appearance of Structures, are found on pages 5 and 6 of the proposed amendment. Among them are:

4. All wall planes to create visual difference.

9. If building is on piling, make sure it looks like it. This is my interpretation. The provision actually reads “The exterior walls of uninhabitable ground floor levels should ideally be treated and articulated differently from the exterior walls of the above habitable floor levels.

11. The size, scale, location and orientation of all window and doors should be designed as integral components of the building facade.

These above are just 3 of 11 tests that you must meet to qualify for “community compatibility.” Do these “what do you think” provisions eliminate subjectivity and produce objectivity? I believe not! Unfortunately they did miss one additional provision, i.e. the appropriate size and color of door mats.

Continuing on pages 8 and 9 of the amendment there are 8 guidelines for site development. Item 6 of thee guidelines is somewhat confusing to me, it reads: “The total developed area within a front yard should be minimized to enable the conservation and introduction of native vegetation.”

Are these series of guidelines only a suggestion? If not a requirement, why mention it? Will only suggested items be required items in the future? This is legislation?

A technical note on the wording of the proposed Ordinance: On page 7, items 14 and 15, it appears that City Council is required to obtain PC prior consent before acting on matter involving the ordinance. It would be a mistake for the Council to accept this. It controls the PC, not visa versa.

An incidental matter, some PC members have objected to a green roof on Periwinkle. Was this subject a part of the council’s current charge to the PC?

I might have broken my oath not to write again on Sec. 84-43, but can’t I say Ordinance No. 09-011 is a new proposal? Unfortunately not, it is merely a bunch of mumbo jumbo that ends up imposing the same indefinable subjective approach to the taking of property rights.

Dale E. Armstrong

Sanibel and Columbus, Ohio