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City of St. Augustine could give more time for people to live in trailers after hurricane


Date: April 24, 2017
Source: The St. Augustine Record
Author:  Sheldon Gardner


A dozen travel trailers are still serving as homes for people in South Davis Shores after Hurricane Matthew, and the city could give those families more time to repair their properties.

David Birchim, planning and building department director, cited the number on Friday while talking about an ordinance scheduled for a vote at today’s City Commission meeting.

He said there may be a handful of trailers in other neighborhoods, though numbers were not available.

The ordinance will let “victims of a natural or man-made disaster” stay in travel trailers or RVs until the city gives them a certificate of completion for their disaster-related repairs or until their building permit for the repairs expires, according to a memo from Birchim.

The city originally allowed people to live in campers on their properties following the emergency declaration for the hurricane, but that provision expired on April 17, according to the memo.

“Helping one family is important, even [if] it is one … to give everyone that leg up that they need or a little extra time,” Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline said.

The ordinance will be on its first reading, and two are required for the ordinance to be adopted.

Another ordinance on first reading would repeal and replace the Floodplain Management code to bring it in line with National Flood Insurance Program guidelines, according to Birchim.

The city has to update the code to stay in flood insurance program because the code is not in compliance, according to Birchim. Without being in the NFIP, city property owners couldn’t buy flood insurance backed by the program.

“This update does not materially change the city’s Floodplain Management code, it simply re-formats it,” according to Birchim.

It does, however, make the city building official the floodplain administrator as opposed to the city manager, according to a city document.

Related to that effort, the city is bringing forward an ordinance that would allow the city to send a “five-year cumulative substantial improvement” requirement to the Florida Building Commission for approval. The city approved the rule in 2010, and it is required to be sent to the Florida Building Commission for approval because it is a higher standard than the state requires.

The requirement allows the city to tally all improvements or repairs made to a building in a flood hazard area over a five-year period based on building permits, according to the ordinance. Once those improvements reach 50 percent or more of the market value, the building has to be brought up to base flood elevation, officials said.

There has been discussion about whether to get rid of the rule, Birchim said. Doing so would allow property owners to make repairs without worrying about separate work permits adding up toward the 50 percent threshold.

In other business

A resolution is on the table that will reaffirm the city’s commitment to using revenue from the Historic Area Transportation and Parking Community Redevelopment Area to pay for debt on the city’s parking garage, said Mark Litzinger, director of financial services for the city. The city uses property tax revenue in the CRA to pay for the debt.

State lawmakers introduced proposed legislation this session that would phase out CRAs.

The resolution is an interlocal agreement between the city and the CRA that memorializes the obligation to pay the debt “regardless of changing CRA legislation or other circumstances impacting this particular fund or area,” according to a memo from City Attorney Isabelle Lopez.

“It basically protects the original intent … of the CRAs more if you had to defend it,” Litzinger said.