It’s a 40-by-60-by-20-foot steel two-story garage that dwarfs nearby homes in the quaint Palmetto Point neighborhood of Colony Bay. It looks out of place on the property at 407 51st St. W. and neighbors are unhappy.
Manatee County says it’s legal and can stay.
John Barnott, building and development services director said, “Does it look out of place? Of course it does, but it’s allowed by code in definition of an accessory structure.”
Resident Jeanne Jernigan is challenging that notion and accuses the county of breaking its own land development codes. Jernigan said she has received some conflicting information from making calls around the county, noting that she was told the land development code, “didn’t matter and that the county was using codes from the 1950s to approve the structure.”
According to county documents, those ordinances state that all structures must be one story and accessories can only take up 25 percent of the lot. Jernigan said the county is in violation of Florida Statute 163.3161(6) that states comprehensive plans supersede ordinances in applying the law. Barnott said that’s true, but the county is using the comprehensive plan in lieu of the old ordinances.
There is nothing in the land development code that forbids such a structure. Jernigan said her options were to ask for a code enforcement hearing in front of the special magistrate, “but that it would cost me a lot of money and even if I prevailed, it would be my tax dollars being spent to fix the problem. So if I wanted this to be corrected, I’d have to pay my attorney and the county attorney and then my taxes would be used to fix their problem. They want me to pay three times to fix their mistake and that’s not right.”
There is no recourse for the individual when the county does wrong, but when the shoe is on the other foot, they will be ruthless making you comply.
Jeanne Jernigan, Palmetto Point resident
Barnott said the only contested part of Jernigan’s argument is the 25-foot setback requirements, “but that only applies to commercial, not single-family residential. So if the owner wanted to use that structure for commercial purposes, they wouldn’t be allowed to do it.”
Property owner Kris Greene said he doesn’t have plans to do anything along those lines. Greene owned a bicycle shop for 15 years, “and I just needed a place to store all that stuff. My house isn’t big enough, so I built it for the storage. I can certainly see where it does look big but it fits my need. I sincerely didn’t want to upset my neighbors. I had a need and I went to the county and I let them tell me how big I could have it.”
The retired firefighter said he informed his neighbors that he was going to build it but once the metal frame began going up, “all of the complaints started coming in then. I don’t want to upset my neighbors, but now I’ve spent $100,000 and all I know is I followed all the rules.”
Jernigan said her primary concern is that similar structures could start popping up all over the neighborhood.
“They issued the permit and they never stopped construction when errors were brought to their attention,” she said. “Our neighborhood should not have to be forced to live with this because the county failed. There is no recourse for the individual when the county does wrong, but when the shoe is on the other foot, they will be ruthless making you comply.”
Barnott said he empathizes with the neighbors
“But they don’t agree with our interpretation of the land development code and that’s understandable. We just read the code differently. It looks out of place, but it’s not in violation. I always try to tell these neighborhoods that’s why homeowners associations are important and they should form one with an architectural review committee that can stop things like this from happening without having to go through the county,” Barnott said.
“I do empathize with those folks out there, but, from our standpoint, it’s legal.”