Recommendations forwarded to limit height, size



When the ordinance concerning primary dwellings and accessory buildings includes language pertaining to “servant’s quarters” the time has probably arrived to update the ordinance.

That was the feeling of Port St. Joe Commissioner Rex Buzzett last week as commissioners workshoped restrictions to the concept of accessory building.

Commissioners were gathered largely at Buzzett’s request, Buzzett over several meetings expressing concern about the number of pole barns rising around the city.

During an informal tour of city limits, Mayor Bo Patterson said he counted at least 30, but said he did not see the issue and was concerned about government overreach.

For Buzzett the problem was not so much the structures, as the dimensions compared to primary structures, saying that some pole barns were rising above house lines and, in some cases, were larger than the primary residence.

Buzzett noted that the county is just beginning, from behind the curve, to address the problem in Oak Grove where some pole barns have been enclosed with the potential people are living in them.

Commissioner Bret Lowry, who is in the county’s building department, said the county was trying to “get its hands around” the issue in Oak Grove, where a number of pole barns have risen in the past several months.

After roughly an hour of discussion, commissioners decided to forward to the Planning and Development Review Board a proposal to limit height and size.

Before formalizing any language, commissisoners want PDRB feedback on recommendations to limit the size of any accessory building to no more than 75 percent of the primary residence on the property.

In addition, height would be limited to 12-feet, with a 16-feet extension in the case of a large boat.

“I think the ordinance is outdated to the say the least,” Buzzett said, pointing out language pertaining to the impacts on “servant quarter’s. “Height and size, I’d like us to look at that.”

Commissioner David Ashbrook said property owners already are prohibited from having an accessory building in the front yard, but added, “I don’t think you want accessory structures that are as big as your house.”

A major issue is enclosing the accessory building, making it impossible to determine whether or not someone was living in the structure, though city ordinances ban such a use, building inspector Bo Creel said.

At that point, he said, it becomes a code enforcement issue, he added.

To address that issue, he suggested, and commissioners agreed, placing language in the city’s land development regulations that clearly states you can not live in an accessory structure.

Patterson, who during a prior meeting suggested Buzzett only had an issue with pole barns after one went up in his neighborhood, continued to voice dissent.

“People have a right to own stuff and they have a right to cover that stuff,” Patterson said, connected to the workshop by phone.

“My thing is too much government intrusion.”

The PDRB, said member Phil Earley, could use some direction from the Commission.

He said he saw more and more accessory structures around the city that appeared commercial in nature and did not fit residential neighborhood aesthetics.

In addition, the trend in pole barns had meant and more variance requests coming to the PDRB as property owners push the limits while building a primary residence and large accessory structure.

“I’m gonna have to agree we need to have some restrictions on this,” Earley said.

Commissioners agreed on the height and size restrictions, submitted them to the PDRB for consideration and suggestions with an eye toward amending the ordinance in the near-future.