PB: What You Won’t See On The COW Agenda Tonight

by SDM

The Village of Palmetto Bay will take up a yawner of a list of topics at tonight’s meeting. Sure, the agenda will discuss election dates, decorum (again for the umpteenth time), the legislative agenda (whose exactly?), Thalatta renovation plans, the policy on fleet vehicles (to be electric or not to be), and the ever controversial senior tax exemption.

Sorry, SDM just nodded off.

What’s sad is that a very serious issue raised by Vice Mayor Dubois and shot down by the Three Amigos at the last council meeting. Namely, the question of whether Palmetto Bay’s variance standard is too restrictive for homes that, in some cases, date back fifty and more years.

There is a case to be made for a strict variance standard: it gives little leeway to elected officials to vary the code so as to favor certain property owners over others.

But this slight benefit is overwhelmed by the case against the standard. Imagine the following scenario: You go out and decide to install a pool behind your home. You had a good year at the office and your kids are small enough to spend endless weekends happily splashing away in their own back yard.

So you go out and hire a reputable contractor…or so you believe. Unfortunately, the pool installation is faulty. You pay for the permit, but the pool builder staked out the location incorrectly, leaving the structure one foot too close to the side yard boundary. To make things infinitely worse, you decide to install a hot tub on that side of the yard after the pool salesman gets you imagining moonlit nights sipping wine with your spouse.

A Palmetto Bay inspector gets a tip from some malefactor saying that your pool is illegal. So the inspector looks over your fence and sees the violation and writes up a notice.

You immediately contact the pool builder to have him fix the problem but learn that he is out of business for negligently installing swimming pools. You have one of those “oh sh*t” moments.

SDM Aside: You can unintentionally buy into one of these problems too. Your survey can be faulty, or your home inspection, or the county records, or, or, or…

Fortunately, a candidate for re-election to the village council stops by to solicit your vote and helpfully suggests that you go see the friendly village staff to see if things can be worked out. She also asks you to remember to vote for her in the next election.

The next day you head down to the village hall and meet with the snarky guy in the planning and zoning department who gives you the bad news: You have to remove your pool because there’s no permit in the file. Further, he tells you the village has a rigid variance standard and he doubts you could get one if you apply. Of course, he tells you the council is not allowed to consider the fact that moving the pool will cost you a fortune.

Now, many of you are thinking, SDM you are so full of it. Such a scenario can never happen in Miami. All of the pool, deck, gazebo, outdoor patio, lighted waterfall, fence, etc., contractors in Miami are upstanding businesses who understand the code and would never screw up an installation or fail to pull a permit. It will never happen to me.

Not only can this happen to you, there is a good chance it has happened or will happen to you or one of your friends and neighbors. Nevertheless, the topic is verboten in Palmetto Bay.

SDM Wonders: Wouldn’t it be nice if you lived in a village that vested authority in 5 wise neighbors who could grant you the kind of relief that civilized people would grant in such a situation?

SDM Says: Yep, it would sure be nice.

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