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Planning looks to change MUD language

September 11, 2019
By JORDAN HESTER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The town's Joint Local Planning Agency meeting last Thursday covered a lot of ground, especially with the Minimum Use Determination, of MUD, ordinance.

Staff has presented the Town Council and the Zoning Board with possible solutions to language involving the density requirements. The joint council has agreed on the option to edit the ordinance and add additional qualifier language.

The short explanation for the MUD, is that if a single home is on a lot or crosses joined lots that are smaller than 4,000 square feet, they don't meet the minimum recommended density usage, according to the comprehensive plan and land use designations. This translates into an inability for the landowner to make any changes to this existing property that would require an exception or an update to their use. If a home is damaged, or needs extensive repairs, it puts the owner in a "black hole" position of no advancement or rebuild.

There are more than a dozen legal and up to date properties in Fort Myers Beach that fall under the MUD, most of which are smaller homes on smaller lots or a larger house on two joined lots.

Plots can be the right size for duplexes, according to the zoning designation, and have existed since the 1960s, but homes and lots "outgrew" the original lot size over time, though there are leftovers from this era.

"We've looked at this pretty extensively, and it should get its language changed, it creates too many stops on building on these small lots, especially in the case of disaster," said Jason Green, head planner contracted to the city.

Staff 's proposed language updates give legal outs to properties grandfathered in that don't meet the minimum usage requirements for changes to use or construction, with the exception that these plots can only be updated to contain 1 unit per parcel.

The staff recommendation voted on is to make existing lots, no matter the size, be buildable lots whether or not a structure was built across the property line at some point. This has to include public utility access and right of way and has limitations of future building per the current comprehensive plan and neighborhood zoning designation (whatever it may be when they decide to re-build).

"This solves a lot of construction issues, as well as keeping the ordinance common sense with basic building in mind," said Sarah Probst, a planner contracted to the Town from Calvin, Giordano & Associates of Fort Lauderdale.

The current ordinance is viewed as poorly worded, even with grandfathering laws to meet the usage at the time of drafting.

"People on these tiny lots need to have some kind of protection, if a storm knocks their home over, they can't be expected to just roll over and leave their lot empty if there is no way to meet the bare minimum usage," Jane Plummer, vice chair for the Local Planning Agency of Fort Myers Beach, said.



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