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Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Monday, December 3, 2012
Planning Board kills outdoor bathroom variance

After about 30 minutes of discussion over a New Town home that has been turned into a boarding house of seven separate units, the city's Planning Board on Thursday night seemed ready to table the matter.

For a month.

This would give the applicants time to inform their neighbors of their need for an outdoor bathroom for use by at least three tenants, in a neighborhood zoned for single-family housing.

This pleased contractor Michael Skoglund and property manager Robert Schreiber, who appeared on behalf of homeowner Faye Logun, who lives in Tampa.

"We will gladly do that," said Skoglund, seemingly seconds away from a reprieve, until a lone Planning Board member broke the friendly rapport with a motion to deny the variance altogether.

City staff asked the board to deny the request for the after-the-fact variance for the outdoor bathroom, in a case that only came to light in October 2011 when the Key West Fire Department was summoned to a room fire at 2310 Patterson.

"They discovered all these extra bedrooms with the lockouts, with all these people living individually as if they were units," said Brendon Cunningham, a senior planner for the city.

Still, two board members, Tim Root, a local contractor, and Michael Browning, a local developer, spoke in favor of giving the applicants another month to work on their request for an after-the-fact approval of an outdoor bathroom at 2310 Patterson Ave.

They did warn the property manager that their chances for success were slim at best.

"If ever a case calls for having something torn out, this is it," said Browning, who brought up tabling the item. "You really should prepare for that eventuality, getting rid of that building. Even if the neighbors don't object, still we have to find certain criteria. This is a stretch."

A city planner and a code compliance officer presented evidence that 2310 Patterson Ave. had problems larger in scope than an outdoor detached bathroom needing retroactive approval.

"All of this was constructed without the benefit of permits," said Code Compliance Manager Jim Young, referring to the individually padlocked rooms rented out on the property.

The owner applied for permits in 2005 but the city rejected them.

Also, the applicants had failed to even complete their application.

Then, during Thursday night's board meeting there arose a bizarre disparity over how many bedrooms and bathrooms comprise the New Town house, zoned as a single-family unit in Key West but used as a makeshift boarding house.

Property manager Schreiber said he wanted to set the record straight.

"There are six bathrooms on that property and there are only four units that share that double bath; there's two separate rooms, a toilet and a sink in one room and a double sink and a shower in another," said Schreiber. "There's four people who share that. Three of the units have private bathroom."

Yet under the "hardship" section of Logun's variance request is written that without the separate bathroom structure, "it would be a one-bath, five-bedroom house."

Which is it?

Skoglund, who had signed the application, said that he must have made a mistake.

But Lisa Tennyson, the Planning Board's newest member, brought the application down to brass tacks.

"Mr. Chairman, I would deny this," Tennyson said. "I move to deny this."

Logun's home has spawned a second city case, having racked up 10 building code violations. She is due before a hearing judge Dec. 19 at Old City Hall.

One neighbor sent a letter to the Planning Board that the owner never tried to contact those who live by 2310 Patterson Ave.

"I had no idea this was happening until I read about it in the paper," wrote Jimmy Lane, vice president of Century 21 Schwartz Realty and a member of the Key West Bight Management Board. "Because the property is split into illegal apartments, it causes severe congestion on the street."

A 5-2 vote, with Browning and Root dissenting, killed the bathroom application.

City planners recommended that the board deny the request and order homeowner Faye Logun to tear down the outdoor bathroom.

Voting along with Tennyson were board members Richard Klitenick, James Gilleran, Gregory S. Oropeza, and Sam Holland, Jr.

Logun, who bought the house 20 years ago, lives in Tampa and on Monday told The Citizen that she would rather not comment on the pending code compliance case.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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