Property stands landward of Beach Road, and new structures would not be habitable space, board members note
In agreeing to approve the construction of a pool, paver deck and fence at 105 Beach Road on Siesta Key, Sarasota County commissioners made distinctions between the property owners’ request in this case and other petitions they have turned down over the years.
“I try to consistently vote against anything in front of the [Gulf Beach Setback Line],” Commissioner Nancy Detert said, after making the motion on Sept. 22 to approve the Coastal Setback Variance petition submitted by the owners of the 105 Beach Road site. “But it’s a little ridiculous,” she continued, “when you’re on the second street from the beach, and you’re still in that zone.”
The Gulf Beach Setback Line (GBSL), which was established in 1979, was designed to protect native beach habitat and dune systems, which, in turn, protect landward property from storm surge and other flooding events.
Matthew Brockway, an attorney with the Icard Merrill law firm in Sarasota — who represented the owners of the 105 Beach Road parcel — pointed out that the maximum distance any of the new construction would be seaward of the GBSL was 80.9 feet. The Mean High Water Line, he added, is 393.3 feet from the property boundary.
Furthermore, Brockway showed the board a photo of a four-story residential structure that is seaward of both the 105 Beach Road parcel and Beach Road. That was the house to which Detert referred in her comment.
“You’re certainly not imposing on beach access erosion,” Detert said of the plans.
Commissioner Charles Hines noted the difficulty during his years on the board of making decisions about Coastal Setback Variance (CSV) petitions. His view, he continued, is that if the proposed construction does not involve living space, “I don’t have a problem with it. The owners know they’re at their own risk [if a storm damages accessory structures, such as pools].” His advice to them, he added, is “Don’t come back to this commission and ask for a seawall” or another, similar means of protecting the property from further damage.
Further, Hines noted the expense for property owners to hire an attorney or another type of representative to make their cases for them during CSV petition hearings. “It’s probably an overreach,” he added of the need for such persons to have to gain board approval for initiatives that do not involve habitable space, “unless there’s environmental issues, public access issues …”
Finally, Hines agreed with Detert’s view about the fact that the 105 Beach Road parcel “is on the other side of the road, with houses in between it and the beach.”
With Commissioner Christian Ziegler seconding Detert’s motion, the vote to approve the CSV was unanimous. Chair Michael Moran was absent because of a family emergency, so the tally was 4-0.
Details of the proposal
During the staff presentation, Staci Tippins, an environmental specialist with the county, pointed out that the property at 105 Beach Road is about a mile north of Siesta Public Beach. The house stands at the intersection of Beach Road and Columbus Boulevard, she added, catty-corner from Beach Access 3.
About 74% of the parcel is seaward of the GBSL, Tippins said.
The original single-family home on the property was built in 1938, she continued, noting that it was remodeled in 2019.
The petitioners — formally Siesta Key Resort X LLC — plan an in-ground pool that would cover 885 square feet, including “a sundeck and water feature,” the Sept. 22 staff report said. The western edge of the pool would be 36.5 feet seaward of the GBSL and 439.7 feet landward of the Mean High Water Line (MHWL), the staff report added.
(Siesta Key Resort X lists a Columbus, Ohio, address in the documents it has filed with the Florida Division of Corporations. The registered agent, the record notes, is NRAI Services Inc. in Plantation.)
A 4-foot-tall aluminum fence “designed to meet the safety standards provided in the Florida Building Code will be installed around the perimeter of the property,” a Sept. 22 staff memo said. The fence would have two self-latching gates.
That structure would be the most seaward facet of the new construction, Tippins told the commissioners.
The pool would be designed to keep it in the ground in the event of flooding, she pointed out. It would be the only pool in Block 9 of the Miramar Beach Subdivision, she said, though, within a 500-foot radius, other pools are present on residential properties.
“This area of north Siesta Key is prone to flooding due to the low elevations,” Tippins noted, showing the commissioners a slide. In fact, she said, flooding has been documented “on several occasions” at the intersection of Beach Road and Columbus Boulevard. Some of the events resulted from storms, Tippins added, while others occurred during “typical summer thunderstorms.”
Further, she pointed out, county aerial images of the site taken over the years show that the MHWL has been much closer to 105 Beach Road parcel than it is today. In 2008, she told the board, the MHWL was less than 150 feet from the site.
“It’s a dynamic area of Siesta Key,” attorney Brockway agreed, referring to the Sept. 22 staff report. However, he said, “This particular property has not been threatened with erosion,” as shown in photos dating back to 1947.
Since 2012, Brockway continued, accretion of the beach has taken place “at a very rapid rate.”
Tippins also noted, “Some of the trees [on the property] may need to be relocated to make room for the proposed development.”
The construction would take place in a landscaped area in the northwest portion of the site, Brockway told the board members.
No space is available landward of the GBSL for a pool and deck, he pointed out.
“How are you past the [GBSL]?” Commissioner Detert asked Brockway after he showed the board members a photo of the four-story residential structure on the seaward side of Beach Road, across from his clients’ parcel.
“It’s just a factor of where the GBSL was drawn,” he replied. He was not certain, he added, whether the house west of the road pre-dated the establishment of the GBSL or whether prior commissioners approved a CSV for its construction.
(The Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s record for the condominium structure located across the street from the 105 Beach Road property says the building was erected in 2003.)
Nearing the conclusion of his presentation, Brockway referred to Section 54-721(b) of the county’s Coastal Setback Code in contending that the proposed construction would meet all nine factors for consideration in granting a CSV.
After Detert made her motion to approve the petition, she told Brockway she disagreed with him on that point. Moreover, she said, “Not having a pool — it’s not like your roof fell in.” Nonetheless, she added, given the location of his clients’ property, it made “total sense to approve this.”