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Decision on carports back in city's lap

The issue of whether temporary carports are structures is what New Port Richey must determine after it was put on hold awaiting a state interpretation.

By MELIA BOWIE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 15, 2003


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Should they stay or should they go?

More than 80 residents with temporary carports will likely learn soon whether the canopies can remain or whether they must be torn down and fines paid.

The issue goes back before New Port Richey City Council members tonight after a year in limbo. The devices in question typically are erected to protect boats, cars and other items from the elements.

City building officials last year deemed the carports structures -- noting the temporary devices were not so temporary. Nor were they attractive.

"The ones that are in question have metal framework to them," said Gary Brevoort, the city's certified building official. "Hollow metal poles and the canvas is mounted on them with various fasteners."

The new designation made them subject to zoning and 130 mph wind requirements from the Florida Building Code.

As a result of the change, about 85 residents were cited in May 2002 and warned they could be fined up to $250 per day until they comply, plus a $150 administrative fee to plead their case before the code enforcement board.

Upset owners flocked to the City Council -- defending the carports as "personal property" just like lawn furniture, swing sets or grills that should not need permits.

Faced with an onslaught of complaints, city officials decided to ask the state for its interpretation.

In the meantime, everything was put on hold.

"The City Council made it quite clear they wanted us to hold all these in abeyance," City Manager Gerald Seeber said. "Those (85) cases are still outstanding."

Until now.

The Florida Building Commission recently opted not to interpret whether the carports are structures, citing a lack of specific information from New Port Richey and a hesitancy to rule in generalizations.

That means council members must choose among several options. They could:

Deem the canopies structures.

Allow them to go unregulated.

Create minimum standards by amending the city land development code.

In the meantime, the devices continue to pop up, the city staff said.

"... There are more of them than there were a year ago," Seeber said Monday. "I don't think they doubled, but there's a few more out there."

-- Melia Bowie covers the city of New Port Richey. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6229. Her e-mail address is bowie@sptimes.com .

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