New multifamily structure 185 feet seaward of Gulf Beach Setback Line proposed to replace house at 636 Beach Road on Siesta Key

Application also seeks county vacation of segment of Tenacity Lane

An aerial view in the application shows the property at 636 Beach Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The same Siesta Key property owner who has proposed a new multi-story structure on the beach near Access 10 has begun a new application process with Sarasota County. This time, he is seeking to replace an existing single-family residence at 636 Beach Road with a six-unit, multifamily dwelling over a garage that would be 185 feet seaward of the Gulf Beach Setback Line, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

The Gulf Beach Setback Line (GBSL) is what county Environmental Permitting staff refers to as the “line in the sand” designed to preserve native beach habitat, including dunes and grasses, and thus protect property on the landward side of the line.

The new structure at 636 Beach Road has been designed with a footprint of 5,736 square feet, the application says. Its habitable area seaward of the GBSL would be double that of the existing structure, the document notes. The design includes a pool and deck, which would comprise 1,893 square feet, as well as a drive (3,417 square feet) and walkways (1,533 square feet). The total footprint at ground level would be 6,956 square feet, according to the application.

A narrative accompanying the application says the proposed new building would have the same footprint the County Commission approved for 610-616 Beach Road, “as set forth in GBSL Variance Resolution 2011-080 …”

The owner of the 636 Beach Road property is Saba Sands LLC, whose manager is Sarasota attorney William A. Saba. As with his proposal for the new structure near Beach Access 10, Saba has engaged Sarasota attorney Robert Lincoln as his agent in the application process.

Lincoln submitted the application to county staff on April 30, 2018, county records show.

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

The narrative for the 636 Beach Road variance petition says, that the proposed new multifamily units would be in a building east of Tenacity Lane “on lands that have been heavily impacted, are not protected by any conservation or other easement, and do not support dune habitat or vegetation. Since 1998, the coast has continued to accrete.”

The proposed building and associated structures would be at least 617 feet from the Mean High Water Line, the narrative adds, and approximately 400 feet from the vegetation line.

Part of the new application entails a petition for the vacation of a segment of 1,306 square feet of Tenacity Lane on Siesta Key, county documents show. That petition says that Saba wishes to combine parcels he owns that are separated by the road. The petition points out, “The Vacation Parcel has never been opened or used by the County or the public. No utilities are located in the Vacation Parcel. The portion of Tenacity Lane lying immediately to the north of the Vacation Parcel was previously vacated by the County.”

Nonetheless, a Sarasota County Charter amendment that 72% of voters approved on Nov. 6, 2018 forbids the County Commission from vacating any road segments that have even a “waterfront vista.” The county has joined a complaint in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, arguing that the constitutionality of that amendment — proposed by Siesta resident Mike Cosentino — is in question because of its conflicts with the authority state law accords to county governments.

In December 2018, an issue arose before the County Commission about a road vacation petition involving property in Venice. Commissioner Charles Hines referenced the Cosentino Charter amendment then, voicing concern that, under the language of that amendment, the Venice road segment could be considered to have a waterfront view. A public hearing on that street vacation petition has been set for Jan. 15.

An engineering drawing provides details about the proposal for the vacation of part of Tenacity Lane. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In the Saba street vacation petition — submitted to county staff on Oct. 18, 2018 — three adjacent property owners are identified: Lisa Brothers Arbisser, as trustee of the Lisa Brothers Arbisser Revocable Trust, owner of property at 644 Beach Road; the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast in Osprey; and Tivioli by the Sea Association.

Facets of a Coastal Setback Variance petition

In response to a News Leader question, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester wrote in a Jan. 4 email that no date has been set for the County Commission to hold a public hearing on the Coastal Setback Variance Saba is seeking so he can construct the new dwelling units.

Additionally, the News Leader asked whether county regulations are more flexible regarding Coastal Setback Variance petitions involving replacement of existing structures that stand seaward of the GBSL.

This chart in the application for the new 636 Beach Road project compares the plans with facets of the existing structure. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In response, Howard Berna, manager of the county’s Environmental Permitting Division, wrote in a Jan. 8 email, “Existing features on a property are considered during the variance review; however, the petitioner must demonstrate that the new construction meets the following variance approval criteria: a) strict enforcement of the Coastal Setback Code would impose an unreasonable or unjust hardship on the land; b) the requested variance does not adversely impact coastal systems; c) the request is the minimum variance necessary to permit reasonable use of the property; d) the request is not in substantial conflict with the purposes of the code; and e) the variance request is consistent with the [county’s] Comprehensive Plan. With existing use of the property, requests that propose more or larger structures are challenged to meet all of these criteria.”

Details about the new proposal

This section of the proposed site plan shows details of the 636 Beach Road proposal. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The narrative accompanying the application for the 636 Beach Road project says the parcel consists of four platted lots zoned Residential Multi-Family 1 in the Siesta Key Overlay zoning district. That designation allows 6 units per acre, the narrative points out.

The 636 Beach Road property includes two 50-foot-wide lots seaward of Tenacity Lane that extend to the Mean High Water Line, the narrative explains. The proposed building, the narrative adds, “includes less density than otherwise could be developed under the Zoning Code and [county] Comprehensive Plan.”

The property has 100 feet of frontage along both Beach Road and Tenacity Lane, the narrative says. If the County Commission approved the requested vacation of part of Tenacity Lane, the narrative continues, then the total combined square footage would be 1.6 acres, “and therefore has sufficient area for nine dwelling units.”

However, the narrative points out, Saba is proposing to build only six units.

Sarasota County Property Appraiser Office records show that Saba Sands LLC originally bought the property at 636 Beach Road in January 2012 for $4.1 million and then sold it in October 2014 for $4,950,000. The limited liability company purchased the land again in June 2016 for $2,026,100, the records say.

The narrative with the application for the Coastal Setback Variance says that between Siesta Public Beach and Ocean Boulevard, “there are six properties that have ‘double lots’ on Beach Road. All of them except the Subject Property have multifamily structures …” Those are at 228 Beach Road (four units); 304 Beach Road (four units); the Shells on Siesta Key (four units); 524 Beach Road (six units); and 610 Beach Road, (six units). Only the latter two, the narrative says, include lots west of Tenacity Lane.

This is another image included in the proposed site plans. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“Over the years since the [Coastal Setback Variance] ordinance was adopted,” the narrative explains, “[the County Commission] has established a practice and policy of allowing properties that include lots fronting Beach Road and lots west of Tenacity Lane to combine the density or rights and build multifamily buildings on properties fronting Beach Road.”

The narrative also notes that the maximum height allowed is 35 feet over the minimum required flood elevation. (With construction in flood zones — as property along Beach Road is designated — the Federal Emergency Management Agency requires any new building to stand a certain distance above ground level, depending on the elevation of the property. In the case of the proposed structure at 636 Beach Road, a segment of the site plans show it with an elevation of 20.4 feet NAVD.)

“The Subject Property lies entirely seaward of the GBSL,” the narrative points out, “and no structure can be constructed on Subject Property without a GBSL variance.”

This is the existing house at 636 Beach Road. Image from Google Maps

In adopting a resolution in 1998, the narrative notes, “the Board of County Commissioners already determined that strict enforcement of the provisions of the [GBSL ordinance] would impose an unreasonable hardship on the land.”

The latter language references the Bert J. Harris Act, a state law that deals with “takings” of private property. County commissioners over the past several years have denied most new construction of habitable area beyond the GBSL; however, they did face legal action in one recent case, which involved the efforts of an Osprey couple to build a new home at 162 Beach Road. Ultimately, to settle that dispute, the commission ended up buying the property.

As for Saba’s proposed residential structure near Beach Access 10, Berna of Environmental Permitting said this week that staff has yet to receive any further information since it provided responses last spring to attorney Lincoln in regard to materials submitted on that project.