Better Call Behnken

Pasco County approved plans to build houses only 6 feet apart

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) - Public records obtained by Better Call Behnken show Pasco County workers approved plans to build a Wesley Chapel house only six feet away from another house.

This is in contrast to what officials told us weeks ago.

Then, administrators said they did not approve the house to be built like it was.

Approved plans were fine, they said, but the builder Avex Homes "flipped" the house design at the last minute.

That would have moved the house closer because a driveway was supposed to be in between the houses.

Pasco County code called for this home, on Avalon Park West, to be at least 10 feet away from the next house.

Site plan records, however, tell a different story.

The plan, showing the six foot distance, was approved by county staff in April 2016.

Tambrey Laine, spokeswoman for Pasco County, said the original explanation was in error. She said it was actually the first house on the street that was modified from original approved plans. The garage was moved to the opposite side of the house, and that threw off the plans for every other house on the street.

"Still," she said. "We should have caught that."

Better Call Behnken got involved when Seth and Rebecca Vermillion called with this news: Seth can stand in between his home and his neighbor's home and touch both houses. 

"At first, we thought it just felt closer than it really was," Vermillion said. "They just kept building and then we measured the distance between the home and knew something was not right."

The close proximity brings up fire and safety concerns, quality of life issues and it's just simply against county code. That means the builder cannot get a final inspection on the home and cannot sell the house as it is now.

It's now used for storage for building materials in the neighborhood. The county told the builder in March 2017 to figure something out with the Vermillions.

That hasn't happened, and now the couple has turned to Better Call Behnken for help getting action from Avex Homes.

Avex President Eric Marks admits his company dropped the ball. He said the blunder is a result of a "series of mistakes."

"It started with the survey company," Marks said. "Our people on the ground didn't catch it, and the county didn't catch it."

Marks said the company has three choices:

  • They can tear down the house and start over. 
  • They can offer a settlement to the Vermillions to cover the devaluation of their home. In exchange, the couple would sign a variance to allow the home to stay where it is. This option, however, would require Avex to close in all windows on the side that faces the Vermillion's home and not add a fire protection barrier.
  • They can chop four feet off the home to make it compliant with county codes.

Modifying by four feet is what Marks said he has chosen to do. This means windows would need to shift over and the roof pitch would be redesigned.

Marks says those building plans should be submitted to the county within a few weeks.

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