How We Got Our Pool

Maura Mumball Lane

 Or How Two East Hampton Girls Made a Big Splash in Oakland Park

Ellen Silverberg and Robin Kaplan sold their home very quickly in East Hampton New York this past summer and immediately flew to Fort Lauderdale to buy a home. Knowing nothing about the area, they toured 23 homes in three days searching for something midpoint of friends, near the beach and room for a pool.  They found a lovely Oakland Park home in a swell area and were very happy with their choice until they started work on the pool. I spoke with Ellen about their experiences with zoning, city governments, corner lot penalties, great neighbors and how they just might have changed the law.

What’s the background on the pool?

We came from a house with a 20-foot x 40-foot pool that we could only use in the summer. The intention was to buy a house and put in a pool and our broker told us that it was advertised as “room for a pool.” Our broker said, “No problem.” THAT was not the case. That was far from the case.

When did you start the pool project?

We hired Signature Pools and Spas in November. They applied for the permit. Then I got a phone call telling me bad news. They said “absolutely not!” The city said no. The zoning in Oakland Park states that you cannot have a pool in the shortest part of your house. They consider the front of your house to be the shortest part of your house and the longest part of your house is considered the side of your house. No matter where your address is, no matter where you walk in your house.  It doesn’t make sense. Initially the zoning was created to keep people from putting pools in the front of their homes. So it was decided, if people wanted to put in a pool it would be on the longest side of the house. In our case it (the longest part) would have been the front of our house. This doesn’t not make a great deal of sense. And there in began the fight was about.

However, there is a difference on corner properties. Corner properties have larger setbacks because of the triangular law of being able to see traffic coming in two directions. We had a preexisting gate around a yard of our house. The only place a pool could be sited. No overhead wires and room for a pool, not a huge pool but a pool non the less. This area was considered the front of the house. (And because it was the shortest area, we were denied)

So what did you do next?

We had to seek a variance. Fortunately, I found someone in the building department Justin Proffitt who was on our side to shepherd us through the process. We had to invite our neighbors over to look at the plans for the pool in case they had any objections. So on a stormy pouring night, 20 wonderful people showed up here and signed a sheet with no objections. Because there is no HOA in the neighborhood, the law says we had to ask the two closest HOAs, which have nothing to do with where we are, for permission. I invited them to come over. They happened to be gay and swell and came over to see the plans. We send the signatures and a check for $576 and then waited—and waited for the town council to meet. We were now in December and the holidays, which meant holiday parties but no quorum in the city council

Finally, in January, we presented our case and the board declared it “ridiculous”—as in “a stupid ordinance.”  They also noted that corner homeowners were unfairly penalized due to the setbacks. So we got our variance.  Two weeks later we went to back to the Oakland Park City Council where Justin presented the situation. Within two minutes, the council lead said that  “normally I am very strict with zoning, but this is ridiculous.” They took a vote and we were approved. At the end of the meeting, all the commissioners said “we have to change this law. This law penalizes corner properties.” We walked out victorious, with tears in our eyes.

The good news is our pool began the next day. Signature Pools, Stephanie and Scott Taggart were the best. They stayed right with us.  We love the neighborhood, our neighbors, and the convenience is terrific.

Yet, you both still haven’t taken your first dip!

They told us in two weeks we’ll be good to go. The chemicals have to subside. Hopefully the first of May. The pool is beautiful!


See for yourself.