Unintended conse-quences. Who would have guessed 20 years ago that big, white square houses would be all the rage? Who could have known FEMA, faced with the reality of rising water, would set new requirements for floor levels? And I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise, but who could have anticipated that a single-minded “personal property rights” mantra would come at the expense of the greater community?

Today we’re seeing the results of these changes.

In coastal Delray Beach, the city has put additional limits on the square footage that can be built based on lot size in an effort to keep large boxy houses from looming over the smaller houses next door. The city is also finding that elevated construction is causing walls to rise higher than in the past, shading out their neighbors.

In Gulf Stream and Manalapan, the increase in large houses built at higher elevation is forcing a discussion around the “massing” of new homes.

Coastal Boca Raton hasn’t seen these same issues as its northern neighbors (yet), but residents are paying attention, sharing what’s happening in Delray Beach on social media.

Hopefully, Ocean Ridge, too, will pay attention.

Most of the town’s 1,800 residents have been adamant about retaining the unique character of the town, and new building plans that push the limits of current zoning have angered neighbors — many reeling from seemingly never-ending construction next door. I feel their pain.

I’ve lived in Ocean Ridge for more than three decades, and for much of that time there has been a less-than-subtle push to “increase the value of properties” to better fund the town without raising tax rates. The idea was brought up again at the town’s annual goal-setting workshop.

What this translates to is increasing the approved floor area ratio for new and remodeled properties — creating larger taxable structures. It’s a 20-year-old idea. Not the sort of new thinking the town deserves. At least one commissioner has asked for this topic to be addressed at a 10 a.m. May 13 workshop to discuss planning and zoning objectives.

Residents should plan to attend.

Our coastal communities share many similar concerns and each municipality needs to pay close attention to how its neighbors are addressing the evolving issues of house size, massing, stormwater management and flooding — one of Ocean Ridge’s most critical issues. It’s imperative for residents to attend these meetings — which always seem to happen once the seasonal residents have gone North.

Since not all consequences are unintended, residents must pay close attention to what their elected officials are proposing, and make sure they don’t ignore current and evolving problems.

The sustainability of our communities depends on it.

— Mary Kate Leming, Executive Editor

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