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Local Government BOCC Approves Ordinance Change for Accessory Structures


BRADENTON -- How close is too close, and how big is too big when it comes to your neighbor's gazebo, playhouse or outdoor kitchen? The fifteen foot set-back ordinance that applied to the back of the properties in one part of the county, has now been reduced to five feet, when it comes to leisure-oriented, open air structures.

At the BOCC Land Use Meeting Thursday, Commissioners struggled with defining what and where a structure can be located and in some ways, how it can look. There were questions more than answers, cans more than cant's, and a lot of emergency ordinance repair inking around the chambers. 

Caleb Grimes, representing the applicant, was on a mission, and at every bump he pulled out the pen to ink in remedy to commissioners' concerns. His goal was to get them to reduce the setback for a structure from 15 ft. to 5 foot of the rear property line. The changes would allow the size of a structure be extended to, 200 square feet and not taller that 15 feet. The structure would still have to be set-back 18 ft. from any waterfront, as the current Future Land Zoning requires, but it must be open on at least two sides.

This modification to the ordinance only applies to the Northwest sector (East of Polk Rd.) of the General Development Plan (GDP). It was called an experiment, and it was pointed out a couple of times that these stipulations would be in every contract upon purchasing property. But a couple of commissioners said there is no doubt they would be setting a precedent, which could be a big problem.

Commissioner DiSabatino was adamantly opposed to the five-foot set back. She said, "If you are sitting in your back yard, you won't be able to see. You can't control what they look like or what people put in them." Grimes said the Homeowners Association (HOA) and Code Enforcement would handle that. DiSabatino asked if there were going to be "storage police." 

Commissioner Hayes said, "This is in my district, and once something is done in Lakewood Ranch, everyone feels like they can do it too." She added, "This will set a precedent, no two ways about it," and then asked, "how about maintenance?" 

Grimes reiterated, "They can be built now. We are only asking to increase the size and location, like with a pool cage." But Commissioner McClash also felt a five foot set-back for a large structure needed more room. He made a motion to have the set-back be moved back to the 15 feet the future land zoning requires. The motion failed, 4 to 3, Chappie, Whitmore, Bustle and Gallen dissenting.  

Thursday was another example of the precautionary rule failing to keep its head above water. I asked Building and Development Services Director John Barnott about some of the questions and problems that might come from sketching in these fill-in-as-you-go stipulations that were guiding the meeting. He said he had nothing to say. So then I asked him how anyone in code enforcement would know if someone was using these structures for storage instead of recreation, which was one of the stipulations in the rewrite. He let me know clearly that he had nothing to say to me.

This discussion, whether to allow the changes, went on for an hour and a half. Those supporting the request shot down DiSabatino's suggestion that the item be continued, and kept up with their patchwork efforts to push the measure through. By all means, this was a workshop issue, not yet ready to go ruling. 

The vote to allow a change in the GDP for a structure with a height of 15 feet, a set-back of only five feet, 200 square feet, and two open sides were approved, 4 to 3, DiSabatino, Hayes and McClash dissenting. 


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