By Dan Moffett
Ocean Ridge commissioners moved an important step closer toward lifting the town’s construction moratorium when they gave preliminary approval to a bundle of new building rules on Oct. 1.
Mayor James Bonfiglio said the overhaul is needed to close loopholes in the town’s code — some of them gaping enough to allow the construction of oversized residences that might be used as group sober homes.
Commissioners approved the moratorium on new projects in May and have been working with Planning and Zoning Board members since to rewrite rules.
Town Attorney Brian Shutt said that, if commissioners give final approval to the new ordinances during their Nov. 5 meeting, the moratorium will end.
Key provisions included in the rule changes call for more parking spaces for bigger homes and more green space to promote better drainage.
A new requirement mandates that a parking space must be provided for each bedroom or a room that may qualify as a bedroom for single-family or two-family dwellings. Each of these homes must have an enclosed two-car garage, and homes with more than four bedrooms must have an additional garage space for every two extra bedrooms.
Another new requirement sets a standard of 35 percent for pervious, or permeable, areas on properties and calls for planting more shrubs and trees. Commissioners are considering reducing the 35 percent standard for residences with smaller lots.
Home size became an issue in Ocean Ridge last spring when part-time resident John Lauring proposed building a nine-bedroom home on Island Drive South. However, Bonfiglio has said commissioners weren’t looking at any specific project when they decided to hit the pause button.
Lauring, through his attorney, has objected to the moratorium and rule changes.
“We understand and respect the town’s right to amend its land development code,” attorney Shai Ozery said in a letter to the town. “However, that right should not be used as a sword to prevent the equitable rights of property owners. ...”
In other business:
• Ocean Ridge voters are likely to find several charter amendments on their ballots for the March municipal election.
Commissioners have given preliminary approval to several amendments that set term limits for elected officials, define the hiring and firing powers of the town manager, and require a supermajority of four commission votes for approval of certain high-rise or high-density projects.
The term limits change would restrict a commissioner to no more than three consecutive three-year terms and then require a break from office. The supermajority amendment was narrowly approved on first reading, 3-2, with Commissioners Steve Coz and Phil Besler dissenting.
The proposals require final approval at the Nov. 5 meeting to make it onto the March 12 ballot.
Members of the Charter Review Committee include Zoanne Hennigan, chairman, Terry Brown, Polly Joa and former Mayors Geoff Pugh and Ken Kaleel.
• Commissioners have unanimously approved a budget for fiscal year 2019 that sets the property tax rate at $5.35 per $1,000 of taxable value, 5.9 percent above the rollback rate of $5.05 that would have kept revenues flat year-over-year.
To balance the budget, the commission will have to move about $153,300 from reserve funds, Town Manager Jamie Titcomb said.
The budget includes a 6 percent increase in police salaries after resolution of a new collective bargaining agreement. Fire-rescue services from Boynton Beach are up 4 percent and health insurance renewals increased 11.6 percent. Commissioners have set aside a $60,000 pest control fund to combat no-see-ums and iguanas.
Titcomb received a $5,000 pay raise to $112,500 and signed a new one-year contract after working the last year on a month-to-month basis. Police Chief Hal Hutchins got a $4,363 increase to $104,092.