Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Old Fight Is Back in Atlantic Beach Property Owners' Rights at Issue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Old Fight Is Back in Atlantic Beach Property Owners' Rights at Issue

Article excerpt

Byline: Beau Halton, Shorelines editor

The view from Philip and Cathleen Rowen's back porch has changed drastically -- from blue skies to towering concrete block.

Their next-door neighbors on Second Street in Atlantic Beach are building two three-story duplexes several feet away.

The new buildings contrast with most of the other homes in quaint, crowded core city Atlantic Beach -- small, older structures that have one, perhaps two stories.

The construction next to the Rowens has touched off another case involving the tender issue of property owners' rights in "old Atlantic Beach."

Residents of Second and Third streets packed City Commission chambers Monday to complain about plans by property owner Karen Lagarde and her brother, developer Douglas Brown, to install an elevator on the Second Street duplexes and exceed the city's 35-foot height restriction. Lagarde and Brown had also applied to build a similar structure on Third Street, but those plans were shelved.

The commissioners turned down the height restriction variance request. But neighbors are still steaming about the three-story duplexes and their implications.

"This is bad, but it seems like there's nothing we can do about it," Philip Rowen said. "And the neighbors next to them, they're planning on putting up a big four-plex.

"We're trying to keep Atlantic Beach the way it has been," he said. "We don't want runaway growth."

It's about more than aesthetics, said Betty Eilers, a Third Street resident who attended Monday night's commission meeting. There are other concerns, like flooding.

"We've had ankle-deep water in our house five times," she said. "The more building that goes on here, the more flooding. We've spent $35,000 to $40,000 waterproofing our house. We've put down 8 inches of concrete inside the house to raise the elevation."

But she and other neighbors realize Lagarde and other property owners have a right to build duplexes on their land. The plans call for two town homes in each of the two duplexes.

In November, the commission rezoned the core city to allow only single-family homes; that could have left duplex owners with no recourse if they needed to rebuild their homes. …

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