In considering rezoning proposal for Beach Road property, Planning Commission members hear about ‘unintended consequences’ of 2018 creation of county’s Unified Development Code

320 Beach Road parcel has its own unusual history, too

An aerial view shows the property located at 320 Beach Road, outlined in red. To the right is Beach Access 7. Image courtesy Sarasota County Property Appraiser William Furst

A rezoning application for a parcel on Siesta Key’s Beach Road not only involves unusual facets on its own, but it also underscores what one Sarasota County Planning Commission member has characterized as “unintended consequences” of the 2018 creation of the county’s Unified Development Code.

Ultimately, after clarifications from the county’s zoning administrator and the assistant county attorney who advises the board members, the Planning Commission in late July agreed unanimously to recommend that the County Commission approve the rezoning with specific stipulations.

The County Commission hearing is set for Sept. 22.

During a July 23 public hearing, attorney Matthew Brockway of the Icard Merrill firm in Sarasota explained that the 5,552-square-foot parcel located at 320 Beach Road “is literally an OPI island among RMF properties.” He was referring to its current zoning of Office, Professional, Institutional. “RMF” stands for Residential Multi-Family zoning.

“This is nowhere near any other OPI properties,” Brockway added of the land.

The owners of the parcel — Craig Hollick and Tamara Solarich — are seeking approval to rezone the site to RMF-2 under the provisions of the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD), he said. They want to construct a new single-family home on the site.

A graphic shows the current zoning of the property, OPI/SKOD, at 320 Beach Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The couple purchased the parcel in March 2009, Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records show. They paid $580,500 for it, whereas the prior owner — Constantine S. Stratos — bought it for $1,290,000 in May 2005, the records note. The market value of the property this year was put at $1,131,100, with $1,126,400 of that attributed to the land itself.

During the July 23 hearing, County Planner Keaton Osborn noted that the parcel is adjacent to Beach Access 7, but Residential Multi-Family 1 (RMF-1) zoning is all around it.  However, he explained, the lot is too small to allow for its rezoning to RMF-1, so the owners are asking for the new zoning to be RMF-2, within the SKOD.

A single-family home was built on the site in 1942, Osborn continued during his presentation. Then, in the mid-1970s, the staff report said, a countywide zoning change resulted in the parcel being designated OPI, as part of it was used for an office while the rest served residential purposes.

The property stands between Beach Road and the unimproved Tenacity Lane, Osborn added during the hearing.

Further, staff proposed specific setback stipulations be included as part of the rezoning approval, he said. Those called for a 20-foot setback from Beach Road, a 20-foot setback from Tenacity Lane and a 7-foot minimum setback for the side yard, with a total of 15 feet for both side yard setbacks.

When Planning Commissioner Teresa Mast asked how staff arrived at those stipulations, Osborn said staff used the setbacks for the Residential Single-Family 4 (RSF-4) zoning district.

Expanding on that, county Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson told Mast, “Prior to the adoption of the UDC [Unified Development Code],” a person building a single-family home on property zoned RMF had to abide by the RMF-4 setbacks. However, Thompson added, those RMF-4 standards were removed from the UDC, which combines all the county’s land-development and zoning regulations. “It would be helpful to have them back in.”

A street view shows the structure at 320 Beach Road (left), looking northwest. Image courtesy Icard Merrill via Google Maps

Brockway emphasized that, as well. “Before the UDC [was created], there was express language in the [zoning] code” that called for the RMF-4 setbacks to be applied to a single-family home constructed in an RMF district, he pointed out.

During his presentation, Brockway explained another facet of the zoning regulations regarding the setbacks, noting that he had had numerous conversations and email exchanges with Thompson about the issue. “I think we’re on the same page,” he added, “but we need to articulate it correctly, so the [zoning] code can be properly implemented going forward.”

His clients, he continued, are agreeable to the 20-foot setback from Beach Road. However, he said, they would like a 10-foot setback from Tenacity Lane.

The parcel is designated a “through lot,” he added, because it has a right of way on either side of it. “The UDC says for a through lot, you’re deemed to have two street yards.”

The 10-foot setback on the Tenacity Lane side would be allowable under county zoning regulations, he told the planning commissioners, if his clients recorded an easement that specified no ingress or egress would be allowed from the Tenacity Lane side of the site.

“It’s important that we have the rear yard as 10 feet,” Brockway stressed.

This view of the property at 320 Beach Road is shown from the southeast perspective. Image courtesy Icard Merrill via Google Maps

Moreover, he pointed out, staff included in its recommended motion three other stipulations for the new home on the site: that the structure cover no more than 35% of the lot; that the maximum impervious coverage be 50%; and that the maximum height be 35 feet. Those three apply to all RMF zoning districts, he added. Therefore, his clients would like those removed from the final stipulations for the use of the parcel.

Brockway also noted that while staff called for a 7-foot side yard setback, that appeared to be a typo, as the zoning code calls for 6 feet.

When Planning Commission Vice Chair Colin Pember asked Zoning Administrator Thompson about the proposed 10-foot setback from Tenacity Lane, she agreed with Brockway that it could be reduced after the filing of the non-egress/ingress easement.

Then when Pember asked about Brockway’s statement regarding the 6-foot side yard setback, Thompson replied, “I do believe [the 7-foot staff figure] may have been a typo.”

Following those exchanges, Pember — who was presiding that night — said that no other member of the board had raised a hand to indicate he or she had a question, and no member of the public was waiting to address the commission. (The session was being conducted virtually as a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

When Pember asked whether Brockway wanted to offer any rebuttal, Brockway replied that all he sought at that point was clarification from Thompson that the other three stipulations he had cited could be deleted.

Thompson indicated willingness to do so, noting that all of them were general conditions applicable to SKOD RMF zoning.

Endeavoring to make the appropriate motion

After Pember closed the public hearing, Planning Commissioner Mast asked Assistant County Attorney Josh Moye for help in framing her motion to recommend that the County Commission approve the rezoning. Ultimately, Pember had to reopen the hearing to comply with county regulations regarding the handling of the application.

In response to a question from Mast, Moye said he believed the rear yard stipulation would need to be 20 feet, with the proviso that it could be reduced to 10 feet after the owners filed the easement Brockway had discussed. Moye further suggested that county staff could make the relevant points clear when the County Commission addresses the application.

This graphic shows more facets of the zoning in the area around the 320 Beach Road site. ‘CG’ stands for Commercial General zoning, which encompasses Siesta Village. Image courtesy Icard Merrill

Moye then advised Mast to designate Tenacity Lane as the rear street, to facilitate that process for the owners.

“It’s very important to say that the rear yard setback is 10 feet,” Brockway told the commissioners, in keeping with language in the UDC.

“That makes sense,” Moye acknowledged.

After another exchange between Moye and Thompson, Moye told Mast to reference the 20-foot street yard setback and the 10-foot rear yard setback in her motion. He concurred with Brockway that the other three stipulations did not need to be included.

Then Pember again closed the hearing, and Mast made her motion, recommending that the County Commission approve the rezoning to allow construction of a new single-family home at 320 Beach Road. Planning Commissioner Neil Rainford seconded it.

“I did a significant amount of research on this one,” Mast explained, noting the “unintended consequences” of the omission of the language in the UDC that both Thompson and Brockway had addressed in regard to the RMF-4 zoning.

“I think the neighbors are going to be delighted because it is quite a blighted property, and I wish [the new owners] all the best,” Mast added. (Brockway had shown the board members images of the dilapidated structure on the site, which the owners will demolish to make way for the new home.)

Mast’s motion passed unanimously.