Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Character Law Gets a Review; Some People Say It's Too Much to Enforce

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Character Law Gets a Review; Some People Say It's Too Much to Enforce

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon

ATLANTIC BEACH -- A proposed law aimed at making sure residents' houses and the walls, fences, landscaping and other features around them comply with the city's traditional quaint look got its first public review this week.

Some of the 40 people who reviewed the 14-page document Wednesday night at City Hall said they doubt the city's staff will be able to handle the proposal's vast requirements.

The ordinance delves into such matters as assuring fences along people's side yards aren't so high that they block out their neighbors' light; that landscaping is limited to living, -- not artificial -- plants and, perhaps most important, that homes aren't built so large that they can be classified as "McMansions."

The proposed ordinance intends to:

Assure buildings are compatible in mass and scale and they fit traditional characters of neighborhoods.

Maintain the traditional scale of buildings as seen along streets now.

Minimize the visual impact of larger buildings on nearby property.

Promote access to light and air from nearby properties.

Reduce visual impacts from surfaces such as concrete walkways, driveways or patios in front yards.

Preserve existing trees, especially in front yards.

Encourage diverse building design through reviews by city staff when appropriate.

Resident Barbara Mears said at Wednesday's workshop the city staff and Community Development Board may not be able to handle such reforms.

"In order to enforce this, we're going to need a level of professionality . . . that we haven't had in the past," Mears said. "I think this is a great idea. But I do think you have to have the personnel to enact it."

Another resident, Lisa Bruno, said there's too much leeway in the draft measure that could allow city staff to give in to developers through the review process.

"I think letting the staff control those exemptions is going to end up being nothing more than an exercise in creativity," Bruno said. …

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