Friday, February 15, 2008

Here We (Don't) Go Again?

I keep saying I'm going to start attending Atlantic Beach City Commission meeting. I even have them posted on my calendar, along with the yoga classes I want to attend but never do! Then the meeting date arrives and I'm too tired/too busy/too lazy to get to the meeting.

After reading an article in Wednesday's Beaches Leader I am recommitting myself to being there! I don't want to miss the many interesting and important and entertaining things going on! The article doesn't appear in the online edition, but the subject is included in Drew Dixon's blog.

Now that we have (mostly) private property rights advocates sitting on the AB City Commission, we are finally able to look at removing the hotly-contested Floor Area Ration from the community character ordinance.

FAR has to do with how much floor space can be contained within the four walls of a home. I've never been sure why anyone in Atlantic Beach cares. From what I have learned, FAR is factor used predominantly in a commercial and multi-family buildings, not single family residences. It's used to make sure that a building that meets exterior dimension zoning regulations doesn't violate other zoning regulations, such as minimum parking or density. Prior to the community character study and subsequent ordinance, I'm not aware that we had any parking or density problems in the area of Atlantic Beach to which the ordinance applies.

What we did have were residents who were unhappy that their neighbors had rebuilt larger homes than were originally on their lots. These homes were built within the existing (and might I say, for the most part, reasonable) building and zoning codes. The reality was that in order to support the rapidly rising property values in the Jacksonville and beaches area between 2000-2005, we needed the freedom to allow homeowners make their home functional for the way families live today

Unlike the 60's and 70's, when most of these homes were originally built, homes today are used a lot differently and home buyers have different expections than homeowners at that time. Today, each child generally has their own room. Two full bathrooms are a must. Garages are needed, not just for cars, but for all the other equipment of our lives...surfboards, bikes, fishing gear, etc. Our consumer society means we need more storage than was needed back then. That means larger closets, more cabinet space in the kitchen, and extra storage wherever it can be found. Higher ceilings are desired.

I don't understand why Commissioner Woods wants the FAR to remain in the ordinance as "optional." If it's optional, then it doesn't need to be in the ordinance, does it? I would think anything in an ordinance is mandatory...isn't that the purpose of an ordinance?

I'm hoping as this issue goes to the community development board and public hearings are held, friction among neighbors doesn't rise to the level it rose to at first pass.

Todd Rundgren says it best.