MADEIRA BEACH — The city is considering two changes to its development regulations — one effectively reducing flood insurance bills for new construction and the other creating greater water vistas to the Gulf of Mexico.
Both ordinances were discussed during a City Commission workshop in December and must be reviewed by the city's Planning Commission before being considered formally by the City Commission.
No dates for those meetings have yet been set.
Flood insurance rates could be reduced, according to former planning and zoning director Paula Cohen, if the first habitable floor of all new construction is elevated 2 additional feet.
"This would be a benefit to the whole community," Cohen told the commission. "There would be an additional cost of construction, but we would see a savings in insurance."
Most of the city is 3 or 4 feet above sea level, according to Cohen.
Buildings rebuilt with National Flood Insurance grants already must elevate 2 feet above base flood elevation — the estimated crest of a 100-year flood — which can range up to 17 feet above sea level, she said.
Under the city's present code, other construction is required to be built at base flood elevation — a distance referred to as "freeboard."
The proposed change of 2 feet of freeboard would treat all new construction equally, she said.
Still to be determined is the maximum height, as measured from base flood elevation. Currently, the maximum height is 30 feet for single family homes, as well as for tourist and commercial buildings, and 40 feet for multifamily dwellings.
A majority of the commission said last month that building heights should be increased by an equal amount to any increase in the freeboard requirement.
The other change in building regulations would allow adjacent property owners to combine their density and intensity development rights on one property while leaving the other property as open space.
Properties that are physically adjacent or separated only by a right-of-way, such as Gulf Boulevard, would qualify for development averaging.
"There would be no change in overall density or intensity in the city and the open properties could become a visibility corridor to the Gulf of Mexico," Cohen said.
Such development agreements would have to be approved by the city and would be most advantageous to hotel, motel or restaurant developers, according to Cohen.
Property owners would have to apply for city approval of their development agreements, which would become part of the city's public record so the open property could not be built on in the future.
For example, under present code, two properties can each build 10 units. Under the proposed density/intensity averaging, a total of 20 units could be concentrated on one property while the other would remain open space.
"This gives the city some development opportunities without changing the city's overall density or intensity," Cohen said. "The policy of the commission has been to move toward more tourist units rather than residential."