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    Family told their above-ground pool must go

    The pool had gone unnoticed for five years until it caught the attention of a city commissioner.

    By ERIC STIRGUS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000


    INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- For the past five years, 6-year-old Alicia Konstantinovic has frolicked with her family in the pool at her home.

    The pool, which sits above the ground in the yard, was a gift from her grandmother, who wanted the child to learn how to swim.

    There is only one problem: The city has an ordinance that prohibits above-ground pools. Alicia's parents said that until recently, they had no idea about the restriction.

    The pool had gone unnoticed by city officials until last month, when they ordered that the pool come down. Alicia's parents do not understand why the pool must go and are battling the city to keep it.

    "I don't know what to do," said Alicia's mom, Diane Konstantinovic, 39. "I think it is so wrong."

    City officials say they are not trying to be mean to a little girl and her family. Some residents have complained about people making too much noise as they bob up and down in other swimming pools, they say. City officials say they are simply trying to enforce the law.

    "You have a potential visual and noise nuisance," said City Manager Tom Brobeil.

    The family has been told it must remove the pool today or discuss the matter in court next month. Konstantinovic plans to take her case before a judge.

    City Commissioner Toby O'Brien had seen the pool several times in recent months as he drove past the house. About 3 feet high, the pool sits on the lawn of 2600 First St. next to the house. It has a toy staircase on one end and a metal staircase on the other side. It is not fenced.

    O'Brien knew the city had a rule against above-ground pools, so he wondered if there was any specific reason the pool was there. O'Brien mentioned the matter to Brobeil, who asked the city's code enforcement department to investigate. An officer went to the house and sent the family a letter last month saying the pool had to be removed.

    In addition to the fears about excessive noise and the pool being an eyesore, Brobeil said he has safety concerns about above-ground pools. They are made with steel and plastic, which officials fear could break apart during a major storm.

    Konstantinovic called City Hall, hoping officials would have a change of heart. But they were adamant that the pool violated the city's codes and it had to go. Konstantinovic saw homes with jacuzzis and spas and wondered why she was being asked to remove her pool.

    Spas and jacuzzis are protected under city codes, although they cannot exceed certain sizes, which are smaller than the above-ground pools, said Brobeil. In the case of above-ground spas, city officials have been more accepting because some residents say they need them for therapeutic purposes, like back problems.

    "I don't understand the difference," said Konstantinovic, dissatisfied with the city's explanation. "One you sit in, one you go underwater."

    Glenn Paul, a neighbor who has lived across the street from Konstantinovic for 10 years, said he hasn't heard any complaints about the pool.

    "I don't find it a problem," said Paul, 64.

    Konstantinovic can also fight the ruling with the city's board of adjustment and appeals or apply for a variance, arguing that it would be a hardship to remove the pool and that her neighbors have not complained about it.

    O'Brien, who said he did not want to stir up any trouble, is optimistic that there will be an amicable solution.

    "I'm just hoping we can work things out for the better of the community," he said.

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