Saturday, April 17, 2010

A City of Shacks

An overlooked item on the commission agenda from Tuesday, April 13, was this. A dock was constructed behind one of the McMansions arising on So. Treasure Drive. This was not just any dock but one that required a full vote of city commission to approve the variance.

The neighbors, residents since 1977 Dr. Joshua Furman and Jeannette Furman, came to the commission to explain that the dock, already constructed, encroached on their view. The commission established that the permit was wrongfully issued.

During the tedious hour dedicated to this, one highlight was when the real estate agent representing the owners got up and spoke.

Dressed nattily in denim three quarter length pants and a formerly white t-shirt (seriously,is there any worse look for a chubby man than capri pants?), he explained that we North Bay Villagers, who live in a city of shacks (his words, not mine.)should be grateful to his clients for putting up this expensive house.

That's an interesting PR move, try to persuade the people whose permission you need to build your McMansion by mocking their homes. The gracious new owner also got up and explained that she had the right to do whatever she wanted with her house and besides the Furmans are terrible people because they complained about workers at 8 PM in the evening, three hours after code allows.

This approach worked. Our commission voted unanimously to grant the variance! They said it was in order to avoid a lawsuit.

Code variances are routinely granted when they fit the following criteria - the variance has intrinsic value for the property owner, does not encroach on the neighbors or the neighborhood and does not present a safety hazard.. An example of a proper code variance could be a handicapped access ramp running directly to the sidewalk or a covered parking area. It does not include a view blocking boat lift or a deck designed to peer into a neighbor's bedroom. The City Charter is quite clear on that.

The Furmans should go to court to stop this in my opinion. Not only is the dock out of code and improperly built, but the quasijudicial hearing at the commission was dominated by irrelevant self appointed witnesses and the issue deliberately obscured.

But they are not going to court. Jeannete Furman told me that they are not litigious people. This stands in stark contrast to their new neighbors who began screaming lawsuit the minute they were notified of the problem. I respect the Furman's decision, but hope they reconsider. There is a point where bullying needs to be stopped.

In the meantime, this same overpriced addition to our neighborhood puts a broken fence with exposed sharp ends leaning into the middle of the sidewalk every night. See the attached picture.

Kevin Vericker

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