How the New SB 1526 Law Changes the Plot of Florida’s Coastal Construction - Law & the Land - Rabideau Klein

How the New SB 1526 Law Changes the Plot of Florida’s Coastal Construction

Will SB 1526 Bring More Head Butting & Push Back in Florida’s Seaside Communites?

A new Florida real estate law now on the books has the potential to trigger a trifecta of conflicting interests within the real estate sectors that affect the Florida coastline

The real estate legislation places the state’s luxury construction boom, coastal home safety and a long tradition in historical preservation under the spotlight. The law begging the drama is SB 1526, otherwise known as the Resiliency and Safe Structures Act. Signed into law on March 22nd, it deals with flood hazard areas that are prevalent among coastal cities. In areas in which there are at least a 26% chance of flooding over the course of a 30-year mortgage, local governments can no longer prevent the demolition of any structure that doesn’t comply with the new requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program.

While it limits communities in their powers to protect older buildings, an exception was created for municipalities on barrier islands with populations of less than 10,000, like the Town of Palm Beach. There is also an exception for buildings that have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for at least 24 years, as well as privately owned single-family homes that have been designated as a historic site since January 1, 2022.

A point of continuing contention for Florida coast towns and attorneys

With their bird’s eye view, Florida real estate lawyers and agents are well aware that local developers and the groups commissioned to protect historical architecture and regulate construction often find themselves at cross purposes. Especially where high end home demolition and re-construction tends to be extra active, such as in the more affluent coastal communities, where large estate plots can change plans as often as they change hands and new owners love to design the latest and greatest and have the resources to do so.

The thrust of new development is often over-seen, and can be thwarted by, the agencies commissioned to protect and maintain structures that are already in place and have historical or archaeological significance. That may entail approving or denying upgrades that must meet certain building standards, or permitting or denying the demolition of distinction-identified buildings. The stakes can be quite high because a luxury estate blueprint can call for millions of dollars in investment, and/or determine as much in potential revenue.

Florida’s historical relevance has always played an important role in land use. The state is home to St. Augustine, the oldest continually occupied city in the United States, and the state has is a long history of preserving its Spanish, Moorish, Mediterranean, and South American architectural styles with many of its structures dating back to the roaring twenties.

While these agendas have always had a push-me, pull-you affect in certain areas, the new legislation serves to exacerbate the situation by changing the game rules for both sides, where developers may see more opportunity to demolish and rebuild, leaving protectors of ancestral homes fighting harder to escape the wrecking ball.

Florida’s Wealthy Residential Influencers

Attracted by Florida’s ease of life alongside the Atlantic ocean,  its temperate climate, and a virtual cornucopia of year-round recreation, high-income earners are flocking to the state and bringing their substantial business and financial empires with them. Affluent out-of-stater retirees and wealthy expats continue to take up residency as well, helping to spur a luxury home construction boom.

According to Florida-based building company Finfrock, the sunshine state’s construction industry experienced its fifth consecutive month of growth in October 2023 with 2,500 jobs added since September 2023. The number of new permits is also on an upward trend, with new construction outpacing many areas of the country.

In what has become an all-too-common scenario for smaller coastal communities, high profile private homebuilders and residential developers may ‘take on the town’ with passionate press commentary and packed Town Halls in order to push their development plans through.

How SB 1526 Changes the Plot of New Florida Coastal Construction

While all interested parties need to react appropriately to new safeguards brought about by climate change and higher water levels, the ease of compliance within the Act’s considerable reach is yet to be understood. The new bill is likely to send architects and construction companies back to their drawing boards while owners and investors pressure them to present and re-present permit-approvable blueprints. In reality, the interpretation and implementation of, and the successful compliance with specifications of the law’s requirements may require a considerable learning curve for all involved.

HSB 1526 affects both demolitions and construction. Going forward, local government may not prohibit, restrict, or prevent the demolition of the following structures for any reason, other than public safety.

  • Nonconforming structures that may have been legal before the law passed,
  • Structures or buildings determined to be unsafe by a local building official,
  • And structures or buildings ordered to be demolished by a local government that has proper jurisdiction.

As regards new construction, building plans must comply with the local government authorization of replacement structures for qualifying buildings and specifics such as height and building size restrictions. The bill prohibits a local government from imposing certain restrictions and limitations on a replacement structure to be built on the property where a qualifying structure was demolished.

A local government may only administratively review an application for a demolition permit for compliance with the Florida Building Code, the Florida Fire Prevention Code, and the Life Safety Code, or local amendments thereto.

Palm Beach—the poster child for conflicting agendas

While exempt, Palm Beach Island is microcosm of the real estate sectors forces at play when it comes to building construction on coastal Florida land. The  town has a predominance of influential high-income residents, brisk residential construction, and a stringent landmarks commission that oversees new development to make sure the city maintains its rich architectural heritage. Last year, the Town’s Architectural Commission approved 118 projects, deferred 82 projects for restudy, denied eight, and saw 11 others withdrawn from consideration. In 32 cases, commissioners voted to recommend the Town Council approve code-variance requests for projects. During 2023, the Town’s Planning, Zoning and Building Department issued 262 permits for large scale building projects with valuations totaling approximately $316 million.

Florida real estate lawyers put to the test

It’s safe to assume many of Florida’s other coastal communities are going to be dealing with a slew of new development permits at a rapid-fire pace, where developers will be focused on getting their demolition and construction plans approved; new money for private and investment projects continues to pour in, and architectural guardians fight to protect historical buildings from the wrecking ball.

The new legislation will no doubt keep Florida real estate lawyers extra busy as the consequences of the legislation rolls out. The law is likely to face these considerable challenges in the state’s court system, and only time will tell if it stands up to judicial scrutiny.

Contact Florida Bar Board-Certified Attorneys David E. Klein, Esq. and Guy Rabideau at Rabideauklein.com. They have the expertise and experience you need to ensure that your interests are protected during your real estate transactions across the Palm Beaches and throughout Florida. Contact Rabideau Klein to discuss the legal implications of your next Florida property purchase or sale.

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