Clarification: A story about the city of Delray Beach limiting rooftop uses in single-family neighborhoods might have been unclear. The new height limit does not include the 7-foot-tall foundation required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Florida Building Code for barrier island residences.
By Jane Smith
After more than a year, the Delray Beach City Commission unanimously approved limiting rooftop uses in single-family neighborhoods citywide. On the barrier island, architects had been creating outdoor living rooms on the roofs of new construction.
Homes and duplexes are now limited to 35 feet in height and allowed to have only air- conditioning equipment and other mechanical devices on the roof, according to the ordinance approved March 2. The height does not include the 7-foot-tall foundation required by the Federal Emergency Managment Agency and the Florida Building Code for barrier island residences.
The equipment must be screened by a 4-foot-high wall and can take up a maximum of 10% of the roof space.
Rooftop walls between 4 and 10 feet high must be approved by a city board.
Commercial buildings, including hotels, in the central business district can have rooftop uses, including bars, restaurants and the like.
No members of the public spoke concerning the limits on rooftop uses in residential districts. Commissioners also did not make comments or ask questions after the Development Services director said the ordinance had no changes from the first reading in February.
The commission first imposed a six-month moratorium in January 2020 while staff researched the issue of what can be allowed on residential rooftops. The moratorium was extended again in June and December.
The moratorium came about after a new duplex at 100 Gleason St. received Site Plan and Appearance Review Board approval on Dec. 11, 2019, when the architect agreed to reduce massing on the roof. The duplex was approved to build 10 feet above the 35-foot height limit to put an elevator shaft, a grill and a wet bar on the roof.
“The neighbors are upset because their ocean views will be blocked by my developed property,” John DeLeonibus, who owns the duplex with his wife, Sally, said at the December 2019 board meeting. “They all want to be the last man in paradise.”
He said referring to the neighbors who spoke against his duplex’s height.
The DeLeonibus couple sued the city in November 2020, asking a judge to allow them to finish the duplex according to their July 2019 building permit. That lawsuit is still open in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
Some residences on the barrier island have outdoor living rooms on the roof, equipped with fixed grills, hot tubs, sinks and large-screen TVs. The increased height is out of character with the barrier island neighborhood, two residents who live near the Gleason duplex said at the December 2019 board meeting.
The Beach Property Owners Association appealed to the City Commission in March 2020 to stick to the 35-foot height limits.
“Our conclusion is that these allowances have led to the equivalent of a fourth floor on these buildings,” Bob Victorin, BPOA president, wrote.
Rooftop amenities, such as fixed grills and big-screen TVs, can be accommodated below the 35-foot height limit, Victorin wrote.
The new ordinance did not affect residences already built and the ones under construction.