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Commission approves new height limits for Resort Housing District

By Staff | Nov 22, 2017

After much discussion, the Planning Commission approved an amendment for height limits on three story multi-family homes in the Resort Housing District.

Commissioner Holly Smith voted against the ordinance.

Director Jim Jordan said the ordinance is to fix an existing glitch with multi-family buildings that are permitted in the Resort Housing District, and not in the commercial, or residential district. He said there never was a requirement to have sloped roofs on multi-family buildings.

They reviewed the ordinance, Jordan said to look at ways to make buildings not only look and be designed for aesthetic purposes, but also to make them more doable for hurricane protections and fit the community character.

The ordinance will change the height in the Resort Housing District only, Jordan said so it would be feasible to build a three-story building with a pitched roof. The elevation would be at least 18 feet above flood to allow for a sloped roof.

The maximum flood elevation along the Gulf was between 11 to 12 feet. In 1991 the typical base flood elevation increased to 18 feet.

The Planning Departments finds, Jordan said, is outside of the Resort Housing District, where the typical base flood elevation is 12 feet and the maximum building height limit is 45 feet, it is possible to construct a building with a roof that is slopped and not predominately flat. He also stated that it only becomes a challenge to construct and design a sloped roof on a building when there is insufficient distance, or separation between the maximum allowed height limit and the minimum base flood elevation, especially when the minimum base flood elevation is 18 feet, which is typical formic of the Resort House District. The last fact, Jordan read was in the Resort Housing District, where three-story buildings are not only allowed, but often preferred over single and two-story buildings, it is not possible to comply with the mandatory architecture standards of the Land Development Code.

“In order to have the amendment apply to all the properties on the island, particularly those in the Resort Housing District, we felt that this amendment is consistent with the Sanibel Plan, the community’s vision statement,” Jordan said.

Commissioner Chuck Ketterman said fundamentally, our regulation, is you have 33 feet to build something.

“What you are suggesting to us is in the multifamily Resort Housing area that 33 feet isn’t enough to have three full floors and an angled roof, so we are going to make a small change so they can comply with the new rules and not actually use things above the area,” he said.

Jordan said they will allow someone to have three floors, but they will not allow someone to go above 45 feet mean sea level.

“That has always been the case until the height of flood changed and you could not meet that requirement,” he said. “That was never ever promised outside of the Resort Housing District.”

Jordan said if they are in the Resort Housing District and want to build a new three story building and the flood elevation is 18 feet and they could not put a sloped roof, they would benefit from this ordinance.

“It is patently unfair to allow this for new in the Resort Housing District and to not allow this for new in the commercial district where they are facing the exact same issue,” Ketterman said.

Jordan said he would have to argue that point because in the commercial district they would have other restraints and a lot of that will have to do with floor area.

“If you have a permitted floor area that is a certain square footage you are not going to be able to build three story buildings,” he said, adding that there are variances in the flood elevation.

Under the current commercial standards, three floors could not be built.

Smith said she has found a three story multi family property that could potentially benefit.

“The commission is tasked to make sure our policy is complete,” Smith said. “It was also my understanding that by having us take a better look at this it was not holding up anything. I’m hoping we can take a pause because I have now found a property. You have told me there are no others, but I am concerned there could be that could benefit if something did happen.”

Jordan said rather than talking hypothetical, he was focused on looking at the facts.

Commissioner Dirk deWerff said he thinks they need to focus on the Resort District area and get it passed. He said he would like to move forward and get something done.