Flagler Beach looks to decrease height for building exceptions

The boards also discussed the possibility of adding rooftop terraces or amenity uses as a special exemption.

The Flagler Beach City Commission. Photo by Sierra Williams
The Flagler Beach City Commission. Photo by Sierra Williams
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As the city’s building moratorium continues, Flagler Beach is considering changing the height exceptions from a percentage base to a lower, fixed number in order to stay more in tune with the spirit of the city’s 35-foot height limit.

In a joint meeting with of the City Commission and the Planning and Architectural Review Boards on June 4, Commissioner Eric Cooley, made the suggestion. He said limiting the height to a specific number would get around any potential misuse of the listed exemptions.

"If you change the percent, you bring it down to something, for lack of a better term, I'll call reasonable ... then you don't have to fight with definitions," he said. 

In November 2023, Flagler Beach implemented a six-month moratorium on new building applications that would require special exceptions for the height because of concerns from residents. In April, the City Commission extended the moratorium another six months to November 2024.

Flagler beach has a 35-foot height limit for development but allows a maximum of 40% additional height — or 14 feet — of non-habitable space for approved special exceptions. Those exceptions, according to the ordinance are: chimneys, cooling towers, elevators, bulkheads, fire towers, gas tanks, steeples, water towers, ornamental towers or spires, communications, radio or television towers or necessary mechanical appurtenances.”

Cooley’s suggestion, if adopted, would change the 40% to a specific number of feet. As an example, he suggested five feet of additional height — that would mean any approved special exception could only be a maximum of five feet higher than the 35-foot limit.

“You can still do a good design for an architectural feature that has a lower profile and is more consistent with meeting the spirit of 35 feet,” city planner Larry Torino said.

While multiple people on both boards agreed the 40% needed to be changed, several PAR Board members pointed out that some safety equipment requires a specific amount of height, by state building code — like elevator shafts and stair wells.

City attorney Drew Smith suggested that the ordinance be rewritten for the exemptions with such requirements to be in a separate category while the remaining exemptions be limited to the suggested height requirement.

But several PAR board members also pointed out the city’s strict view on what is and isn’t allowed on the rooftop is behind the times.

PAR board member Brenda Wotherspoon said in city’s like Flagler Beach which do not have a lot of green space — citing Veteran’s Parks as one of the only green spaces one near the main city center — the world-wide trend has been to maximize the rooftop space into a form a terrace.

A business could feasibly have cabanas, host yoga sessions or even have a type of garden on the rooftop, she said. But in Flagler Beach, unless the building is under 35 feet, it can’t do that.

A lot of local business owners that she’s spoken to, she said, would like to see the city updated and continue to progress, while still maintaining that old-town feel.

“We’re totally going against every trend in the world,” she said. “…Are we thinking about what’s best for the future of the city?”

A terrace would not be habitable space, Torino said, but instead occupiable space, a distinct difference in the land development code. It would need to be listed as a special exemption, he said, but the city could also limit or define what is built on top of a roof.

Using the discussion, Smith told the boards he would write up changes for the ordinance and present them to both boards separately at upcoming meetings for approval. Changes to the ordinance would need to be approved by both boards to be adopted.


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