The Coastal Star

Ocean Ridge: Town moves toward architectural style reviews

By Dan Moffett

    Ocean Ridge commissioners have given preliminary approval to an ordinance that authorizes the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission to review developments and consider architectural design and compatibility with neighborhoods.
    The proposed law allows the planning and zoning board to take on some functions similar to those of architectural committees in neighboring municipalities such as Gulf Stream and Manalapan.
    During site plan reviews, the board could rule on matters such as height and scale, and “harmony in architectural style, form, texture, mass and lines as well as materials, colors, and use of architectural elements.”
    The ordinance proposal came to the commission at the request of planning and zoning members who were frustrated over recent large single-family home projects that were out of scale with the neighborhoods around them yet conformed to the town’s code.
    Mark Marsh, a board member, told the commission that the ordinance wasn’t perfect, but “we have to start somewhere” to curb development that doesn’t fit with the character of the homes around it. Marsh said the law is intended to be “a check and balance” to prevent incongruous construction.
    Former Mayor Ken Kaleel, an attorney who often represents developers, argued that the commission should take a thoughtful approach and think twice before going forward with the ordinance. Kaleel said he “guaranteed” that, sooner or later, the town would end up in court trying to explain and defend its architectural restrictions.
    “Control is elusive,” Kaleel said. Architecture is subjective and trends change, he said, and it’s virtually impossible to determine objectively what’s compatible or in character with the style of most any street in Ocean Ridge.
    “We’re not a Gulf Stream. We’re not a Palm Beach where styles are similar,” Kaleel said.
    The proposed ordinance passed its first reading, 4-0, on May 1, with Commissioner Gail Adams Aaskov absent. The measure is scheduled to come up for final approval at the June 5 town meeting.

Seasonal beach policing discussed
    Commissioner Steve Coz is proposing a plan to help deal with the growing numbers of beachgoers from the mainland who are coming to the town, especially during the tourist season.
    Coz wants to hire two part-time certified reserve police officers to monitor the beach during the winter and spring months of peak use. Police Chief Hal Hutchins says he might be able to find the reserve officers to hire.
    The commission plans to look at the cost of the idea during the May 22 budget workshop that begins at 4 p.m.
    Coz also is proposing improved signage, traffic calming devices, fines for commercial beach use, and license plate recognition cameras to respond to the groundswell of visitors.

Ocean Avenue bridge
    Residents near Ocean Avenue can expect about six months of annoyances as the Florida Department of Transportation begins a $1 million bridge painting project.
    Work was scheduled to begin April 24 and is expected to continue into the fall. The contractors, Seminole Equipment, Inc., and RSH Inc., asked the Town Commission to allow work during the day, six days a week, to complete the project sooner.
    “We wouldn’t mind lane closures during the days if it speeds the work up,” Mayor Geoff Pugh said as commissioners granted the request.
    The mayor told the contractors that the town was willing to allow work at night but no sandblasting or loud noise that might disturb residents. Workers will have to close the bridge for up to 10 nights to paint the tips. There will be no work on Sundays and holidays.

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