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Support collapsing for shed rules

Some commissioners say the proposed ordinance needs to be more flexible; others say it's unneeded.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 24, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- County Commissioner Diane Rowden's pitch to regulate sheds in residential areas appears to have run up against a roadblock.

She cannot seem to generate support for the initiative among her colleagues, who will take public comment on the proposal at 1:30 p.m. today.

"It's an unnecessary ordinance," Chairman Chris Kingsley said. "There's no problem. . . . Most people are responsible with their yards in reference to their neighbors."

Commissioner Betty Whitehouse, who initially supported additional review of the issue, said in the month that followed only one resident had contacted her to complain about shed sizes. Staff research on the matter, meanwhile, turned up little to convince Whitehouse that the commission should stiffen its restrictions.

"That's not a burning issue," she said.

Commissioner Nancy Robinson disagreed, saying the idea has merit. Still, she, too, opposed the ordinance as written because of what it doesn't say about the properties it would affect.

"The way it stands now, it would not have enough flexibility for large acreage areas," Robinson said. For the ordinance to be acceptable, she added, "we need to refine it considerably."

Only Commissioner Mary Aiken joined Rowden in her enthusiasm for the proposal, declaring oversized sheds a blight on society.

"They're ugly little warts on the landscape. I shouldn't say little, because some of them get pretty big," Aiken said. "They should be kept out of sight as much as possible. Everybody hates deed restrictions, but without them, your property value declines."

To Rowden, detractors have blown the whole issue out of proportion. She wants to set construction and proportion sizes for sheds -- not garages, playhouses or other "accessory structures" -- and she wants the rules for residential areas only.

"As opposed to people implying it will be countywide, including rural areas, my whole focus has been in residential areas," Rowden said. "We need to get sheds within the right proportion of residential property. We have sheds as big as residential trailers."

She contended that the commission must set standards for the way it wants Hernando County to look before unregulated development occurs. It's the same argument being made for increased commercial landscaping and lighting rules, which could come before the commission as early as May 15, Rowden said.

"We don't want to wait until we have a mess like Pasco County," Rowden said. "They have a mess because they didn't have the ordinances in place."

Kingsley, a proponent of the lighting and landscaping regulations, scoffed at the notion that the commission should restrict sheds when no problem exists.

"Have you seen her garage?" he asked, referring to a two-story garage behind Rowden's Royal Highlands home.

"Mine isn't a shed," Rowden said angrily when asked whether she was setting standards that she can't meet herself. "It's a garage. It's got stemwalls, a foundation."

The former owner, who had several code violations against him, had an unfinished garage on blocks, she said. "We actually took it and did something with it."

That should not distract from the matter at hand, she said. If the commission doesn't agree with the idea, it can revise the ordinance to make it work better, Rowden said. A second public hearing would be scheduled for 5 p.m. May 8.

The ordinance also would set standards for roadside sales from tents and other temporary structures, garages at single-family houses, and recycling collection centers. The county Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the ordinance.

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