November 7, 2018

ISLAMORADA — A foot or two could make a big difference in keeping an Islamorada home dry and cheaper to insure, members of the Local Planning Agency agreed.

Building rules in the village’s charter set a maximum allowed structural height of 35 feet, which should remain, planning board members said.

“Clearly that means we can’t go higher than 35 feet,” said Mark Gregg, a board member and former village councilman. “It’s a question of where you measure that 35 feet from.”

Monroe County and other Florida Keys jurisdictions allow maximum building height to be measured from the crown, or centerline, of the closest road.

Islamorada measures its 35-foot height limit “using the ground-level height, based on the existing grade nearest the structure,” LPA chairman Pete Bacheler said.

If a lot slopes downward, the 35-foot height limit using the ground measurement could prevent owners from raising the height of the first living-space floor to a point where they can avoid higher insurance rates for not meeting federal flood insurance standards.

The LPA sent the Village Council a recommendation “to seriously consider using the centerline of the road” as the point to start measuring upward to “the peak of the roof” at 35 feet, Bacheler said.

“We want to provide immediate relief to those residents who are rebuilding after [Hurricane Irma] and would like to take advantage of elevating their house without being disadvantaged by the elevation of their land,” Gregg said.

For some low-lying lots, that could make a difference of a few feet in height from ground level.

Since the 35-foot height limit was enshrined in Islamorada’s charter, changing that specific limit would require passage in a municipal referendum.

“That [limit] was based on having ground-level parking below two elevated floors so houses generally do not extend above the tree canopy,” Gregg said. “We followed that.”

However, Islamorada code definitions on where to start measuring height “are a little fuzzy,” Gregg said.

“Arguments can be made in favor of multiple interpretations,” he said.

No information was available on when the LPA’s proposed change would reach the council.

November schedule

Village administrative offices will close Nov. 12 for Veterans Day, and Nov. 22-23 for Thanksgiving.

The next Village Council meeting is scheduled Nov. 29.