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Hearing officer sides with Lennar over houses built too close for comfort

Better Call Behnken

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – Residents in Bradenton’s Rosedale neighborhood say they aren’t surprised that a Manatee County Hearing Officer issued a Notice of Intent to Approve a variance request for Lennar Homes.

Lennar asked for the variance after the builder built a home too close to the neighbor’s home. Manatee County Government did not catch the mistake Lennar’s permit or even notice that the home was too close until the house was nearly complete.

The house, on Baltry Circle, was built just 9.5 feet from the house next door, instead of the required 12 feet between buildings in that neighborhood.

Residents are furious, especially Mike Shaw, who lives next-door. He says his privacy is violated and he worries about his home value, claiming he has tried to sell his house and potential buyers noted the close proximity of the home under construction.

“Someone should be held accountable. If I made those mistakes at my job, I wouldn’t have a job,” Shaw said.

Manatee County issued a stop-work order in November in the home has sat unfinished ever since.

Lennar‘s option was to either fix their mistake or apply for a variance to continue building. Hearing Officer Kelly Fernandez has issued an Intent to Approve the variance.

All parties had time to weigh in before the Final Order is made.

Shaw says the system let him down, noting that the only thing Fernandez is asking Lennar to do to help him is to move an air conditioning unit to the other side of their home.

Investigative Reporter Shannon Behnken found that this is not the first time a variance was granted to build a home too close in this neighborhood.

Public documents show that in 2018 hearing officer Fernandez approved a similar request from WCI Communities, which was acquired by Lennar.

Lennar is not the only builder having issues with homes built too close in Rosedale.

A few streets over, another home being built by builder Ashton Woods is also in limbo. That home was built just 7 feet 6 inches from the neighbor’s home. The county expects that case to go before a Hearing Officer on Oct. 21.

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