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Code Violations Bedevil Florida Resort

January 28, 2008 by   - () Leave a Comment

A solution for dozens of fire code violations in a De Bary, Fla., riverside marina-resort may be within reach, but not before city council members have a chance to discuss the situation in depth during a workshop slated for next month.
After some discussion last week, the quest for resolution of code violations at Highbanks Marina and Camp Resort was delayed to Feb. 20, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Council members agreed to schedule the workshop to revisit the fire code issue, along with a special exception to temporarily incorporate a different fire protection method for the 218-lot recreational vehicle and camping park located along the St. Johns River north of Orlando.
Council members were reluctant Jan. 23 to buy into a proposal by the resort owner that meets the intent of the fire prevention code without immediately moving campers, trailers and recreational vehicles the required 10 feet apart.
“It’s all about public safety. I will not vote against what the law says,” said Councilman Lenny Marks, a retired New Jersey firefighter. “People live and sleep in these things. The point is to save someone’s life. There are a lot of problems here.”
Three years ago, city officials cracked down on the 39-year-old campground, where recreational vehicles and trailers have become somewhat permanent. Over the years, many unit owners have added screened rooms, glass rooms with heat and air conditioning, patios and decks – most without permits.
There were 76 violations cited against Don Bauerle Jr. because he owns the park and rents the lots. A code enforcement fine of $250 a day currently exceeds $125,000.
About half the violations have been corrected with after-the-fact building permits. But 35 cases remain, primarily because units, extensions or sheds are less than 10 feet apart as required by fire prevention codes.
Bauerle hired licensed fire engineer Andrew Valente to develop an alternative fire prevention method so unit owners would not have to tear down their additions.
Valente said the law allows alternative protection methods. He measured the risk of one burning unit causing an abutting unit to catch fire and found that to be “unlikely.”
“We don’t expect fire spread to be an immediate concern so long as the fire is only radiating from one unit to another,” Valente reported.
He expects firefighters from a station 3.3 miles away would arrive on scene before the walls of a burning RV fail and could cause a neighboring unit to catch fire.
He recommended two new fire hydrants be installed in the park and that non-compliant units be allowed to stay until they are removed. Then new units can be located in the middle of the lots so, over time, the 10-foot separation requirement can be achieved.
A representative from Volusia County Fire Services wasn’t at the meeting but in an e-mail sent to city officials on Jan. 23, fire inspector Karen Munson suggested that units between seven and 10 feet apart be allowed to “age out.” But sheds and other moveable items should be moved at least seven feet away from structures.
She also wanted a time frame when unit owners would comply with codes and a way to verify when units were moved.
Marks raised the question of what happens to trailers that are now less than seven feet apart. No one could answer.

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