More documentation sought on how proposed house fully west of the Gulf Beach Setback Line would not have negative impact on Siesta Key beach

Applicant Saba Sands II also would need to construct a new Beach Access 10 if it wants to use the existing access for a driveway, county staff says

The Saba Sands II property (outlined in red) is west of the house at 654 Beach Road. Image from the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office

Sarasota County’s Environmental Permitting Division staff has continued to question a Siesta Key applicant’s assertion that a proposal for a three-story house fully seaward of the Gulf Beach Setback Line (GBSL) would not have a negative impact on the coastal system.

Furthermore, Weiqi Lin of that staff pointed out in a second Request for Additional Information (RAI) that if the applicant — Saba Sands II — continues to plan use of Beach Access 10 for a driveway to the house, then the company would have to construct a new Access 10, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

Lin sent the second RAI on May 8 to Robert K. Lincoln, attorney for Saba Sands II, and three other project team members, including Michele Steinbaum of Steinbaum and Associates, author of the environmental report the group submitted to the county almost exactly a year ago.

The proposed house would stand on accreted beach west of the house at 654 Beach Road on Siesta Key.

Lin pointed out that he was responding to answers the project team provided the county staff on March 16 and April 4, in reply to the county’s first RAI. Among his questions, Lin asked the project team to explain why it maintains that the Coastal Setback Variance for which Saba Sands II applied on May 18, 2017 “is the minimum variance necessary to permit reasonable use of the property.”

Sarasota attorney William A. Saba is the principal of the limited liability company, state records show.

“The revised plan,” Lin wrote in the May 8 RAI, “did not show any decrease of construction areas” compared to the facets of the original proposal. The request is for a three-story structure, over parking, totaling 3,496 square feet of habitable space and 2,148 square feet of uninhabitable space, including a ground-level garage, entryways and covered balconies, Lin pointed out, as well as a swimming pool and deck.

In 1998, Lin noted, the County Commission “denied a variance request on the subject property for construction of a residence that was less intrusive seaward of the GBSL than the current proposal.”


The revised application materials submitted in March include this overview of the project. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In the original application, filed in May 2017, Saba Sands II sought a Coastal Setback Variance to build a house comprising 1,590 square feet. Furthermore, Saba wants to install a 20-foot paver drive and utilities in the county right of way on Calle de Invierno, which is designated on the west side of Beach Road as Beach Access 10.

Lincoln has indicated that the county’s denial of Saba’s plans would be a “taking” under the guidelines of the state’s Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act.

In the project team’s March 16 responses to the first county RAI, Lincoln pointed to a number of changed circumstances since 1998:

  • The shoreline has continued to accrete.
  • “Exotic vegetation has further degraded the proposed affected area.”
  • Saba Sands II obtained a title judgment establishing ownership to the Mean High Water Line, increasing the size of the property from 9,800 square feet to 39,370 square feet.

(Sarasota County Property Appraiser Office records show the land area considered for taxable purposes in 2017 was 13,082 square feet. The market value it assigned to the land was $156,000. Saba Sands II paid $175,000 for the property in November 2012.)

Nonetheless, Lin and Howard Berna, manager of the Environmental Permitting Division, have — on numerous occasions — cited the importance of restricting any new construction to areas landward of the Gulf Beach Setback Line. The GBSL, they have pointed out, is designed to protect the beach and property east of it. Lin has called it the figurative “line in the sand.”

A graphic included with the May 2017 Saba Sands II application to the county shows existing vegetation on the property planned for the new house. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Among the questions in the May 8 RAI, Lin noted, “The requested variance does not adversely affect Coastal Systems.”

Under county regulations, he continued, “Coastal System” includes not only the beach but also the upland dune system. Why would the proposed new residential structure and pool “proposed within the dune system … not adversely affect the Coastal System? [Lin’s emphasis],” Lin wrote.

Moreover, Lin sought an explanation of statements in the March documents saying the construction techniques “would not have significant, permanent adverse impacts to sand dunes, other stabilizing features, or the coastal system,” in the area proposed for the house. “Please provide detailed information on these construction techniques[Lin’s emphasis] for further evaluation by County staff,” Lin added.

As for impacts to Beach Access 10: The May 8 RAI pointed out that the access “is located within the Calle Del Invierno right-of-way and has served as a public beach access for decades.”

Based on the County Right-of-Way Use Permit Review, the RAI said, “the road cross-section design must meet the County standard of a residential local road with open drainage and not the designed private driveway[emphasis in the document].”

Thus, the May 8 RAI noted, a new Beach Access 10 would be necessary, adding, “The public should not be responsible for the burden to create the new Beach Access 10 entry. Please clarify that it is the intent of the Petitioner to pay for these capital improvements.”

An environmental report included in the May 2017 Saba Sands II application includes this photo of Beach Access 10. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Additionally, the RAI continued, “The proposed roadway extension will impact Siesta Key Beach Access 10 infrastructure, including post-n-rope, an informational kiosk, and a rules totem.” The RAI added, “It is also expected that the existing Beach Access 10 park sign would need to be relocated and a new one installed directing the public along Beach Road. Please work with [Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department] staff to develop a plan that will relocate/replace these elements at the new Beach Access 10 entry location.”

Other concerns

Among other issues, staff pointed out in the May 8 RAI, “The Petitioner’s property does not have existing direct access from Beach Road and does not have any direct connection of water and sewer lines. Please submit a detailed plan to address utilities and connections issues.”

Additionally, staff pointed out that the application for the Coastal Setback Variance does not meet all of the county requirements. The May 8 RAI lists a number of details the site plan must include. Among them are the following:

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood zone boundaries.
  • Any native habitats, such as the dune system, coastal hammock and wetlands.
  • The total area (square feet) and volume (cubic yards) of any proposed fill or excavation and the type and amount of fill.
  • An exact maximum distance that each of the proposed construction activities will be located seaward of the Gulf Beach Setback Line. “This distance shall be measured on a perpendicular from the GBSL,” the RAI noted. “Please add the distance from the most seaward pool deck to the GBSL.”
A photo included with the May 2017 application shows exotic plants on the Saba Sands II parcel. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Further, the RAI asked that information about the construction access, staging and restoration plans be included in a cross section of the property with the site plan. “Please also provide the areas in [square feet] as total areas impacted by the construction. Any areas outside the footprint of construction must be restored after construction[emphasis in the document],” the RAI pointed out. “This request is not addressed in your latest response,” the RAI said.

On yet another point, the May 8 RAI pointed out that the March material showed a three-car garage with a breakaway wall exceeding the flood zone enclosure limit of 299 square feet.

Additionally, County Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson noted, “The proposed breakaway aluminum stair does not meet zoning setbacks. Please remove it or move it to a location that will meet zoning setbacks.”

Saba’s ownership of other Siesta parcels

An aerial view shows property Saba Sands owns at 636 Beach Road (outlined in red). Image courtesy Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office

Along with his property west of the parcel at 654 Beach Road, William A. Saba owns 22,850 square feet of property at 636 Beach Road through a different limited liability company, Saba Sands, Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records show. A single family-home is on that land, and a vacant parcel extends seaward of it, the records note. The property directly on Beach Road has a three-story, four-bedroom house with 4,090 square feet of living area.

Saba Sands originally bought the property in January 2012 and then sold it in October 2014 before buying it back in June 2016, the Property Appraiser’s Office records show.

Saba Sands paid $4.1 million for the property in 2012 and sold it for $4,950,000 in 2014, the records say. It re-purchased the land and house for $2,026,100 in 2016, the records note.

The assessed value of the property — including the house — in 2017 was $4,128,300, the records say.

Additionally, Saba owns 68,170 square feet of property at 1249 S. Basin Lane on the south end of Siesta Key. It has a house with 8,760 square feet of living area, plus a swimming pool and a dock on the Intracoastal Waterway, the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records show.

The Property Appraiser’s Office records for that parcel say that it is owned by William A. and Teresa Z. Saba. William Saba first owned the property in 1988, the records show. Then, Richard J. and Judith A. Segal bought it from the Sabas in December 1992 for $2,385,000. The Sabas bought it back from the Segals in February 1997 for $1,556,100, the Property Appraiser’s Office records note.