On March 18, county commissioners voted to order William and Donna Nichols to cease construction of an in-ground cement swimming pool at their St. George Island home, and have it removed from its encroachment.
At the Feb. 18 county meeting, commissioners discussed a request for an after-the-fact variance to the county building code that would allow the pool to remain in place at 1080 E. Gulf Beach Drive in spite of its encroachment into the setback. The county’s board of adjustment (BOA) had recommended the variance be granted.
Commissioners were told that the cost of relocating the pool would be covered by the surveyor’s liability insurance. In the course of that debate, commissioners were told the pool also encroached into the public right of way, as well as Nichols’ neighbors to the south.
The commissioners voted unanimously to send the variance request back to the BOA, so it could address both encroachments.
Last week, the BOA returned the request for variance with a recommendation to allow the pool to remain in place.
“We don’t believe the current location poses any hazards or safety concerns for the general public,” William Nichols told commissioners. “We plan to build a four-foot privacy fence along the property line and around the pool and landscape it.”
Angela Myers, who owns the property adjacent to the original encroachment, said allowing the variance sets a bad example. “When you look at property value of St. George Island, the land is very expensive,” she said. “This is one of the biggest investments of our life. We pay a lot of taxes and we are asking for your protection.”
Myers said she offered to have the land resurveyed, even though it was not her responsibility, but was distracted by her mother’s death in November and failed to hire a surveyor.
“There was no way to tell where the pool was going to be until it was built,” said her husband, Eric Myers. “No marking or anything and no way for us to oppose it until it was built. It affects 6 percent of our property; 6 percent of our property has been taken from us.”
Commissioner Pinki Jackel said she had spoken to both the Myers and Nichols. “There’s been a lot of comment about what the law is,” she said. “In my assessment of how this came about, there was no malice. It’s an unfortunate situation for all parties. Remedies were available that the Myers were not able to pursue. It will be a hardship on other parties to expect them to recreate everything. Half of you are going to be unhappy no matter what I do.”
Commissioner William Massey moved to allow the variance and let the pool remain in place. Jackel seconded his motion. It failed 2-3, with Commissioners Smokey Parrish, Cheryl Sanders and Noah Lockley opposed.
“They will have to remove the pool,” Sanders said.