Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Hole' Gives Residents More Storage Council to Address the Code's Flaw

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Hole' Gives Residents More Storage Council to Address the Code's Flaw

Article excerpt

Byline: Kevin Clark, Shorelines staff writer

NEPTUNE BEACH -- As the Beaches population increases and people try to maximize the use of their properties, some have found a new way to get the most out of their space: Build a garage.

The sudden urge to exchange grassy lawns for space to park cars stems from the recent discovery of a loophole in the city code that lets residents build garages as tall as they like and as wide as their property allows within fire regulations.

Dan Arlington, the city's building official, said he's approved four permit requests to build unattached garages in the past six months. Another three residents have inquired about building garages in the past month and are drawing up plans, he said.

"Really, I expected to have more requests than I've had now," Arlington said.

The "hole" in the code is in the section that defines accessory buildings. An accessory building can be no bigger than 120 square feet without a variance, according to the code. But the definition of an accessory building contains two important words -- "excluding garages." With no specific restrictions on garages other than they must be used to house motor vehicles, residents are taking advantage of the allowance by building another story on top of a garage area or widening a structure to add a separate storage room. In some cases, the buildings contain up to 900 square feet of space.

"If everybody does this, where is Neptune Beach going to be?" asked Councilwoman Harriet Pruette. "There are density issues and impervious surface issues with drainage. We need to define a garage [in the code] and protect what we have here."

Residents didn't always have free rein with their garages, however. Jon Hays, former building official in Neptune Beach who now works in Jacksonville Beach, said he defined a garage to be an accessory building and residents who wanted more space had to ask the city's permission.

"If an applicant wanted to build an accessory building bigger than we allowed, I said apply for a variance and let the [Community Development] Board make the determination," Hays said. …

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