In one of Ocean Breeze’s residential districts, a single-family manufactured home sits on a traditional foundation next to others elevated on concrete stilts. The one in the center has an exterior elevator. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star
By Joe Capozzi
As part of an ambitious resiliency project, town leaders are working on a land-use proposal that would give Briny Breezes residents a flood-protection tool allowing them to raise their homes on stilts and pilings.
But their research will not include a field trip to a waterfront mobile home community in Martin County that has homes on stilts, as some members of the town’s planning and zoning board had suggested.
“I know that flies in the face of due diligence, perhaps, but I find this to be counterproductive,’’ Town Manager William Thrasher said March 23 when he recommended against a visit.
A trip to Ocean Breeze, a town of 300 residents on the Indian River next to Jensen Beach, would give Briny Breezes leaders a physical look at what raised homes in Briny might look like.
But the idea was proposed at a time when on-again, off-again efforts by some in Briny to market the town for sale have caused divisions among residents, who are also concerned about the effects of rising sea levels on their coastal town.
Briny Breezes’ proposed code changes call for the creation of a district allowing homes damaged by storms and floods to rebuild on stilts or pilings.
“This code may not be perfect on first go-around, but it would at least establish a tool by which a person could improve their home. And if there are major damages we have tools in which we can allow reconstruction,’’ Thrasher said.
The planning and zoning board is still working on the language in the code, but it could be presented to the Town Council later this year.
Thrasher said he has heard “rumors” around Briny Breezes that “the purpose for this exercise is to create another Ocean Breeze. We all know that’s not it. We all know that’s not possible,’’ Thrasher told the council.
“I am thinking that the tour is counterproductive and can create more confusion than what we are already dealing with,’’ he said.
Ocean Breeze and Briny Breezes are the only two Florida towns where residents live in a mobile home park bearing the name of the town, according to the census. Both towns are bordered by water.
But the similarities end there.
Briny is a co-op of individual shareholders, and any changes to Briny Breezes’ code would require not only approval from the Town Council, but also from Briny Breezes Inc., the corporation of homeowners who own the 43-acre mobile home park.
Ocean Breeze, which has a Publix-anchored commercial district, is managed by a Michigan-based company that owns other manufactured homes and RV communities across the United States.
“More than half of their community is on stilts, up high. It is different from Briny in the fact that it is owned by a single entity that rents space to these people. It’s not a co-op like Briny,’’ Jerry Lower, Briny’s planning and zoning director, told the council.
“It’s the same thing as Briny as far as dealing with sea-level rise being right on the Intracoastal,’’ he said. “That’s where the huge similarities are.’’
Lower is publisher of The Coastal Star.
If any field trip were taken, it could only involve one member of the planning board and one member of the Town Council because of Florida’s Sunshine Law, which requires open meetings.
Council member Liz Loper said she liked the idea of a field trip.
“I would just like to see what one of the raised places would look like. Not to say that’s going to be all Briny, but if someone wanted to do it, you could say, ‘Well, this is kind of what it would look like,’’’ she said.
A visualization can be accomplished by going online and seeing photographs of homes with stilts in Ocean Breeze, council President Christina Adams said.
“My big concerns are grouping a lot of us together, the Sunshine Law and misrepresenting what our code is trying to do. I don’t want to do that,’’ Adams said before the council agreed to cancel the field trip.
“We want people to be able to build and rebuild and have safe and healthy homes they can live in, but it’s not going to be another Ocean Breeze. We are always going to be Briny Breezes, and by taking a group of people, I don’t want to misrepresent what we are doing in the town, either.’’
In other March action, the Town Council named Adams as president. Sue Thaler, a council member for 12 years, had been the previous president.
Budget hearings will be held Sept. 14 and Sept. 28.