County staff to process a number of proposed amendments to land-use and zoning regulations including ones regarding expansion of districts where guest houses can be built and stipulations for accessory structure design

Three amendments planned to tackle changes in state law

Donna Thompson addresses the County Commission in August 2020. File image

Sarasota County Planning and Development Services Department staff has received County Commission approval to process nine other proposed amendments to the county’s land-use and zoning regulations, in addition to two that will affect Siesta Key, as The Sarasota News Leader already has reported.

During a Jan. 25 presentation, county Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson reminded the board members that Planning and Development staff allows the public twice a year to propose amendments to what is called the Unified Development Code (UDC). Likewise, Planning and Development Services staff can recommend what are referred to as publicly initiated amendments.

The “cycles” for submission are in September and March. After staff reviews all the proposals that are turned in, a County Commission discussion is scheduled, so the board members can provide direction on how staff should to proceed with the amendments that staff outlines for them.

Last week, Thompson first noted that, because of changes in state law, three amendments to the UDC are necessary to bring them in alignment with the Florida Statutes. First, she pointed out, Section 124-293 of the UDC needs to be revised to make it clear that the county’s Code Enforcement Division staff “can no longer receive anonymous complaints.”

Any person who wants a Code Enforcement officer to address an issue — for example, routinely overflowing garbage piles at the curbside of a home — must provide his or her name and address.

Second, a new state law prevents any local government from requiring special permits or licensing for street vendors and food trucks. Therefore, Thompson said, staff has proposed an amendment to Section 124-74(d)(1)i of the UDC.

Finally, she pointed out, thanks to the passage last year of Florida House Bill 403, the county no longer can prohibit, restrict or regulate home-based businesses in a manner that differs from how it regulates any other residential use. That will necessitate an amendment to Section 124-73(c)(5), according to a chart staff had provided the commissioners.

On a motion by Commissioner Christian Ziegler, seconded by Chair Alan Maio, the board members voted unanimously to direct staff to proceed with processing those amendments.

Other publicly initiated amendments

Thompson addressed five other amendments to the UDC that staff had proposed for a variety of reasons.

First, she said, issues had arisen over a UDC provision regarding the design standards for accessory structures in residential zoning districts.

As Thompson put it, “We have encountered some hardships being faced by the residents, and we need to address compatibility [issues],” including neighborhood aesthetics. “We’ve had situations where individuals, to get around some of the standards, have proposed to put two sheds on … property,” she pointed out. In some situations, Thompson continued, people even have tried rezoning their property to get around the stipulations. “We do have some creative citizens in the county.”

The staff comments on that proposed amendment, written on the chart provided to the commissioners in advance of the Jan. 25 meeting, say, “The design standards for accessory structures in the [Residential Single-Family, Residential Multi-Family and Residential Combination] zone districts require all accessory structures exceeding 150 square feet” to have an exterior appearance similar to that of the principal structure. “If the accessory structure exceeds 300 square feet,” the comments continue, it must have a similar exterior appearance, including architectural style, building materials, and finishes, and “it shall not exceed 50% of the footprint of the principal structure.”

The staff comments add, “These provisions could be modified to be less burdensome on homeowners installing sheds, detached garages, and similar accessory structures. While high quality aesthetic design standards for accessory structures [are] important for property values,” the goal should be to strive for standards that ensure neighborhood compatibility while maintaining property values without causing “undue burdens on private homeowners.”

One person, Ryan Mast, appeared during the commission’s Open to the Public comment period that morning to request the board members’ support for staff work on that amendment. Mast expressed frustrations over his desire to erect a shed where he can store his boat and trailer on his property.

This is a partial list of the proposed UDC amendments that the commissioners discussed on Jan. 25. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Next, Thompson noted, is a proposal to revise the county’s Master Tree List so it includes permitted species, categories, and the necessary height and radius of trees that are allowed to be planted. The Environmental Protection Division staff had asked for that change, she told the commissioners.

Following staff discussions with the Office of the County Attorney, Thompson continued, the possibility exists that an amendment could be crated to allow future, further changes to the list to be handled by resolution, instead of ordinance, which would be a less complex process.

Yet another staff recommendation calls for removing the restriction that guest houses can be no larger than 1,200 square feet on parcels zoned Open Use Estate, Open Use Rural and Open Use Agricultural, if a parcel is 20 acres or bigger.

Thompson reminded the commissioners of their vote a couple of years ago to allow guest houses of 750 square feet or less space on parcels zoned Residential Single-Family and Residential Estate, so older adults could age in place and have an adult child live in separate quarters on the property. That child could keep take them to medical appointments and otherwise watch out for them, for examples.

This is an example of an accessory dwelling unit — a ‘granny flat’ — that could be used for workforce housing. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The guesthouse would not count for residential density purposes, she added.

For another example, Thompson noted, the discussion at the time also considered the prospect of a person’s renting out a guesthouse to gain extra income.

Staff then did not explore the prospect of such guesthouses in the county’s Open Use districts, she pointed out.

Micro distilleries could be part of 2050 Village Centers

Finally, Thompson explained that staff had received an application for a privately initiated UDC amendment that would allow a micro distillery in a Village Center in a Sarasota 2050 Plan community.

The 2050 regulations apply to specific types of developments east of Interstate 75, in the rural part of the county. The Village Center of such a community is the area with commercial space designed to serve the residents of that development.

A county graphic shows a Village under the 2050 regulations. “V.C.” stands for Village Center, while “N.C.” stands for Neighborhood Center. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The proposal was submitted by attorney Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker firm in Sarasota, the staff chart said.

When the 2050 regulations were written, Thompson indicated, staff members “didn’t contemplate including [such businesses] in 2050 Villages.” After receiving Bailey’s proposal, she added, “We felt it was viable to explore [this idea].”

At the conclusion of Thompson’s presentation, Commissioner Nancy Detert made the motion to authorize staff to proceed with work on the other publicly initiated amendments, and Commissioner Michael Moran seconded it. The motion passed unanimously.

In response to a question from Chair Alan Maio, Thompson confirmed that an applicant who is a private individual has to pay $1,000 for staff to begin consideration of a proposed UDC amendment.

Then Detert made another motion calling for staff to proceed with the micro distillery amendment, as well as the Siesta Key Chamber amendment regarding a reduction in parking spaces for restaurants and bars in the commercial district on the southern portion of the island.

Commissioner Ron Cutsinger seconded that motion, which also passed on a 5-0 vote.