By Dan Moffett
After months of debate and deliberation, Ocean Ridge has a new ordinance in place that it hopes will regulate homeowners’ installation of storage sheds and quiet disputes among neighbors.
The ordinance, which the Town Commission passed with a 4-1 vote on Oct. 5, distinguishes between two general varieties of sheds: those larger designs that will require building permits to put up; and those often prefabricated models that now will require only an administrative review to install.
Town Manager Tracey Stevens said the new regulations aren’t meant to infringe on homeowners’ rights or signal a wave of shed policing. They are, however, intended to give officials a way to respond to an increasing number of complaints from residents, most often unhappy next-door neighbors.
“The town will enforce this ordinance just like any other ordinance on the books,” Stevens said. “It isn’t the goal of our code enforcement officers to go around looking for code enforcement issues. Most of the code enforcement cases are complaint-based.”
To fall into the category that needs no building permit, a shed must have no plumbing or electric and must not exceed 100 square feet or 7 feet in height. The ordinance prohibits sheds from being installed in front yards or waterfront setbacks, and they must maintain a 5-foot rear property line setback and at least 3 feet on the sides. All sheds are required to drain only onto the owner’s property.
Only one shed is permitted for each lot and must be screened from the view of adjoining properties.
For a shed to satisfy the administrative review requirement, a town building official must inspect it to certify it conforms to standards and is property anchored and installed.
“The last thing it is ever intended to do is to be adversarial,” Mayor Kristine de Haseth said, arguing that town officials needed the guidelines to help resolve shed disputes among neighbors.
Vice Mayor Steve Coz voted against the ordinance, saying it was likely to penalize homeowners with smaller lots and failed to grandfather-in existing sheds. He argued that if sheds cannot be seen by neighbors, and if there were no complaints, then restrictions are unnecessary.
“If you’re really going to get serious about this, then you should wait until there’s more people in town,” Coz said, noting that seasonal residents should have had the opportunity to weigh in on the issue.
Before commissioners voted, the Planning and Zoning panel considered the restrictions for weeks. The ordinance also provided new definitions and regulations for homeowners’ dune crossovers, setting uniform sizes and clarifying placement restrictions. The rules permit only one dune crossover per parcel.
In other business:
• Because of COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings, the town will not hold its annual holiday event at Town Hall in December. Instead, plans are in the works for a parade through town featuring Santa Claus, Stevens said.
• Town Attorney Brian Shutt announced in October he was stepping down to take a job with another law firm. Shutt has done legal work for the town since 2016, after serving nearly 20 years as an attorney for Delray Beach. The West Palm Beach law firm of Torcivia, Donlon, Goddeau & Ansay, which is under contract to represent Ocean Ridge, has not yet named a permanent replacement for Shutt.