By Dan Moffett
Ocean Ridge is looking for ways to rein in nuisance construction projects.
During a three-hour joint workshop on Oct. 19, the Town Commission and the Planning & Zoning panel considered code changes that would tighten building rules.
Town Manager Tracey Stevens said the goal was to “gain an understanding of current town regulations” and “determine whether they’re working.” From there, Stevens said, she hopes officials can develop new measures soon.
“We want to maintain the character of the town,” said Mayor Kristine de Haseth, “while also protecting homeowners’ property rights.”
Among the construction issues considered for revisions:
• Project time frames: Residents and officials have complained that too many projects have received building permits but then languished for months without activity.
• Demolition: Commissioners say they want to ensure that tear-downs and renovations are as minimally disruptive to neighborhoods as possible and that debris is quickly removed.
• Site management, construction fences, flood mitigation: Homeowners have often complained that job sites are inadequately screened from view with temporary fencing.
• Property maintenance, abandonment: The town manager should have adequate authority to enforce the handbook of ground rules for contractors, who are required to keep sites orderly and protect the rights of adjoining property owners.
• Landscaping, tree canopy protection: Commissioners consulted a recent Boynton Beach tree study looking for ways to protect the town’s canopy.
• Light nuisance: Revising regulations for the location and direction of outdoor lighting.
Ocean Ridge is one of the few communities its size with a full-service, in-house building department, including a full-time inspector and clerk. Most small South Florida municipalities hire outside vendors for inspections and permit work.
The resurgence in the state’s real estate market in recent years has led to a surge in permit requests for renovation work throughout the town.
In September, the Ocean Ridge Building Department received 288 permit applications and performed 233 inspections.
In 2019, the town took in nearly $667,000 in building permit revenue. The downside of that construction boom was disruption in neighborhoods and building sites that were eyesores.
Stevens said the staff has completed work on recommendations for changes and will bring them to the Planning & Zoning Commission for review, with the Town Commission looking at passing new ordinances, probably early next year.
In other business:
• The West Palm Beach law firm of Torcivia, Donlon & Goddeau has named Pamala Ryan as the replacement for former Town Attorney Brian Shutt, who resigned in September to join another firm.
Ryan has 22 years’ experience in municipal government work, having represented several South Florida communities, including Riviera Beach.
She was appointed to the Florida Bar’s City, County and Local Government Certification Committee from 2014-2020.
In April, she co-hosted a webinar on the challenges of complying with Florida Sunshine laws during the COVID-19 pandemic.
• The town canceled plans for a December indoor holiday event because of the pandemic.
However, plans for a Santa Claus “ride-around” are in the works, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12, from 3-5 p.m.
The time and date are subject to revision, and the town’s website will announce details or changes.
The idea is to have Santa ride in a vehicle through as many streets as possible and throw candy and dog biscuits to residents and their pets who are maintaining the proper social distancing. Ú