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Canopy carports could be banned

(ran SS edition of Metro & State)

Largo commissioners will discuss today a proposal that would outlaw the structures from the front of homes.

They are dangerous and they are unsightly, code enforcement officers say.

They are canopy carports, coverings made of canvas or plastic that are used to protect cars, boats and other vehicles from the elements. The coverings are tied to metal frames that are buried into the ground.

City commissioners are scheduled to discuss at a work session today a proposed ordinance that would not allow them to be built in the front of a home.

Code enforcement officials think strong winds, particularly those from a hurricane, would lift the coverings away and damage other property.

"Something that is not secure becomes a missile," said Largo police Capt. John Carroll, who co-wrote a memo to city commissioners explaining the issue. "You wouldn't want to wake up with it in your living room."

About two years ago, Sharon Rodriguez spent $150 on a metal carport with a black canvas cover to protect her prized, black 1965 Mustang that sits in her backyard.

Rodriguez's daughter, Mindy Touchton, does not understand why the city is so concerned. There have been no problems with the carport when it has been windy. The metal poles are a foot into the ground. And besides, a major hurricane has not struck Pinellas County in years, she argued.

"I don't think it is going to budge," said Touchton.

Oscar "Olie" Olsen is not so sure.

Olsen, who owns an engineering firm in St. Petersburg, has studied the impact of hurricanes for about 30 years. He has seen the aftereffects of storms that tore apart sheet metal and thrust the material like a feather. He also said that state laws require that carports be able to withstand winds more than 100 mph; Olsen does not think plastic and canvas can withstand such strong winds.

"There's no question that they would not come up to scrutiny," he said.

Carroll said the police department, which handles code enforcement, started looking at the issue in August when several residents complained about a carport with a canvas covering in the front of a home on Ridge Road.

Code enforcement officials sent a note to William and Doris Haynes, the owners of the home at 1617 Ridge Road, asking them to remove the covering, according to assistant Community Development Director Erik Bredfeldt. The city thought the carport violated city rules that prevent such structures from being less than 20 feet from the sidewalk.

The couple did not comply, according to Bredfeldt. On Oct. 28, the city's Code Enforcement board ruled the carport was illegally erected. A few days later, the carport was removed, Bredfeldt said.

The Haynes' did not return a telephone call for comment Monday.

Similar concerns about wind resistance prompted Clearwater officials to amend the city's land development code and prohibit canopy carports. Some residents also complained that they are not the most aesthetically pleasing structures around.

"It kind of causes a blight that lowers property values," said Clearwater police Lt. Jeff Kronschnabl, who is in charge of the city's code enforcement department.

Clearwater's amendment will take effect in July.

Pinellas County and Safety Harbor have setback requirement rules that restrict such structures. The city of Seminole will inspect a carport if it gets a complaint that it is not anchored properly, said building official Bill Vola.