Pinecrest backs off strict McMansion rules

Back in April, Pinecrest put the brakes on adopting regulations aimed so-called McMansions and promised to consult with all interested parties.

The Village Council revisited the issue on Tuesday, and based on a staff recommendation, voted to adopt much milder regulations.

In the original proposal, the council considered reducing the overall height of structures in all “EU” residential estate zoning districts from 35 to 32 feet, and capping wall heights at 26 feet.

In EU districts with lots of one acre or larger, front setbacks would increased from 50 to 55 feet for one-story structures and to 60 feet for two-story structures. Also in larger EU lots, side-street setbacks for corner properties would have jumped from 25 to 30 feet. The proposal would have also created graduated side setbacks on all properties of 25,000 square feet or more, with a foot of setback for every foot in building height over 20 feet, on top of the the current minimum 20-foot setback.

The contractor-developed alternative considered by council on Tuesday jettisoned all setback adjustments and rejected lowering the maximum height of overall structures. It granted capping wall heights, but at 27 instead feet of 26, and asked that wall heights of two-story, flat-roofed homes be bumped up to 27 instead of 24 feet to be consistent with pitched-roofed houses.

The new proposal also requested that the maximum height of accessory structures be hiked to 18 instead of 14 feet, something that local builder and resident Frank Mendez told council it should do since contractors were “circumventing” the rule by awkwardly attaching structures to main homes.

Village planning director Stephen Olmsted told the council that the original proposal was “potentially problematic in that it could create non-conformities,” and recommended that the council adopt the contractors’ “more conservative approach.”

Mayor Cindy Lerner fired back against what she countered was a “static approach.”

“I don’t see that it’s changing really much of anything. That’s what bothers me. All of the setback [adjustments] are being eliminated,” she said. “Especially if we’re going to allow them to add height here and there, I mean, they’re still going to be able to build these McMansions that are just overwhelming the neighborhood and out of scale with the neighborhood and utilizing space that has to be spent on drainage and green space.”

Council member Bob Ross said he felt that front setbacks were sufficient and that increasing them might just push homes to eat into back yard space, but said side-road setbacks should be expanded.

“What I see in a lot of these homes is too much mass too close to the road,” Ross said. “Also, I think you need sufficient flare for a driveway.”

Vice-Mayor Joseph Corradino spoke throughout the discussion against changing setbacks at all, telling council members that they risked “unintended consequences,” likely in the form of awkwardly built homes.

Responded council member James McDonald: “Everything we do, there can be unintended consequences. That’s passing legislation.”

As for building heights, one architect told the council that it had already lowered the relative height of buildings when it voted in April to make it so that building measurements were taken starting with the average — and no longer highest — crown of adjacent streets.

The council ultimately voted 3-2, with Corradino and council member Jeff Cutler in the minority, to adopt the builder-developed model plus 30 foot side-street setbacks.

A second and final vote on the new building regulations should be on the agenda at the village’s next council meeting, at 7 p.m. on Oct. 14.

In other business, the council voted 4-1 — with Ross again in the minority — to bump up next year’s tax rate from $2.20 per $1,000 in property value to $2.30 to pay for an expanded community center and redevelopment at Coral Pine Park. Next year’s general fund spending is now projected at $20.96million, and the consolidated budget — which reflects capital projects and general spending — totals $30.5million.