By Rich Pollack
For years, residents living on several of Highland Beach’s side streets have been complaining about noise, debris and traffic problems — all the result of new construction in their communities.
Efforts to resolve some of the issues are underway following the adoption by the Town Commission of a tough new construction ordinance and a “construction site management” handbook.
“Residents will now be able to go about their daily lives without having to worry about whether or not they’ll be able to exit their driveways,” said Commissioner Peggy Gossett-Seidman, a resident of the Bel Lido neighborhood, where most of the complaints originate. “They’ll be able to live in their homes and enjoy peace and quiet.”
The new ordinance, combined with the handbook, prohibits work on construction sites on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays and prohibits work on those sites after 5 p.m. Previously, work was permitted on Saturdays and until 6 p.m.
In addition, the ordinance — which applies to the entire town — prohibits workers at new construction sites from arriving earlier than 30 minutes before 8 a.m., when work is allowed to resume, and 30 minutes after 5 p.m., when work must end for the day.
Efforts to ensure residents on side streets — including Tranquility Drive — are not disturbed are also included in the new ordinance, which prohibits “noise that tends to annoy the community.”
Loud music — in fact, any music — is also prohibited.
“It shall be unlawful for the contractor or the contractor’s employees or agents to play music at any time at the construction site,” according to the ordinance.
One of the biggest complaints from Bel Lido residents was obstructed access to their homes due to parking of construction vehicles and workers’ own vehicles.
Bel Lido resident Mayde Weiner told commissioners that years ago parking was controlled on the street, but over time vehicles began crowding the streets, making it difficult for residents to get in and out of the community and even blocking garbage trucks from getting through.
“We went from strict controls to a complete free-for-all,” she said.
Under the new ordinance, all vehicles associated with construction must be parked on the site or at an alternate location. The ordinance also spells out that alternate sites must be approved by the building department and Police Department. To be fair, the commission agreed to provide a six-week grace period before implementing the ordinance on existing sites.
The construction management plan, which addresses many of the same issues as the ordinance, will apply only to projects permitted after its adoption. Also, it requires companies with projects valued at more than $10,000 to post a damage bond.
Violations of the ordinance or the rules spelled out in the handbook could result in fines, while violations of the handbook rules could also result in a stop-work order or a revocation of building permits.
Commissioners agreed that effective code enforcement would be needed to ensure companies follow the new rules.
“The major problem is that we don’t have a code enforcement officer,” Commissioner Rhoda Zelniker said.
The outside firm that provided building inspection and some code enforcement services, SAFEbuilt, has been under fire by commissioners and recently gave its 90-day termination notice. The town plans to create its own building department and is conducting searches for several positions, including a code enforcement officer.
Gossett-Seidman said the town will continue to look at disruption caused by construction.