Building heights likely to be revisited
Anticipating the U.S. 41 Bypass widening project, the Venice Planning Commission is taking under consideration staff recommendations about land development regulations to make it easier for business owners to rebuild.
“You don’t want to make that business go out of business,” said Brad Cornelius, from Wade Trim, the city’s planning consultant. “It also allows them to expand their operations and be a successful business, but can’t change to another type of use that could potentially” create more impacts.
The commission heard from Planning Administrator Chad Minor on how to simplify and streamline “nonconforming” structure regulations.
Many of the older businesses in that U.S. 41 corridor are considered nonconforming. Under current code, if a business were to rebuild or relocate for any reason, including the widening project, it would be required to build to current code — an expensive proposition.
New language would let them rebuild exactly what they had, albeit with plumbing and electrical updates. Owners wouldn’t have to come in line with current rules on such things as setbacks, parking and drainage requirements.
A 15-foot setback, for example, that is reduced to 6 feet due to an eminent domain taking could be granted administratively. That relieves the building owner from having to go through a formal variance proceeding before a city board.
“This is something the Florida Department of Transportation is looking to put in place without going through extra hurdles and burdens,” Cornelius said.
Another section allows high-rise condo buildings to rebuild the same number and size of units, even if modern building safety codes mean it might be slightly higher, or wider due to wiring spacing or other mechanical requirements.
More troublesome for commissioners was its vagueness regarding building height.
Commissioners wanted more clarity for condo rebuilds due to natural disasters, which staff said it would include.
“There’s no upper limitation that I can see,” said Sid Shrauger.
“The only intent,” said city council liaison Kit McKeon, “was to build back up to meet the code. There was no ability to allow discretionary changes of height.”
Other honed in on new definitions related to roof measurements and related building height.
“This would make building height of 42 feet from a maximum to an average,” said Chair Barry Snyder, who wondered if the commission was reopening a controversial subject.
“It will open up the discussion again,” Minor conceded, but insisted a definition more compatible with the state building code is needed.
“Right now we’re working off three different building heights” as defined in the comp plan, and outdated land development codes, Minor said. “How do you explain that to a customer and have them take you seriously?”
“It’s affording a little bit more flexibility,” he said.
Shrauger characterized the amended language as a “tweak.”
“I implore you all not to get caught up in this building height thing,” said land use attorney Jeff Boone. “The community should decide. Put it in code, and move forward. You don’t need to get all wrapped around the axle around that again.”
Staff will take the commission’s comments and suggestions into consideration and come back with revised language at a future workshop.