Sarasota County staff learns of potentially illegal subdivision work undertaken on Manasota Key

Among the parcels is one the County Commission declined to buy in January and preserve through its Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program

A county graphic shows the parcel (right) that was offered for sale this year. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A county graphic shows the parcel (bottom right) that was offered for sale this year. Image courtesy Sarasota County

After learning of records on the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s website about two property owners’ efforts to subdivide lots on Manasota Key without following Sarasota County land regulations, county staff is working to set up a meeting with the owners to discuss the situation, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

A Feb. 24 letter from Mark Loveridge, manager of the county’s Land Development Services Office, and Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson went to Fred Hosman and James T. Bauer at an Englewood address, noting that the county’s Planning and Development Services Department “has no record of any Sarasota County approvals supporting the subdivision of these lots in this manner.”

County records show that in 1998, the two parcels in question were identified as a single piece of property split by Manasota Key Road, the letter continues. “Information from the Property Appraiser documents that, in 2005, the parcels were split, creating four parcels,” the letter adds.

Since then, the Property Appraiser’s Office has processed additional Property Split Applications, creating four more parcels, the letter says. “These recent splits would require the platting of a subdivision in accordance with the County’s Land Development Regulations … prior to [the county’s] considering any development permits for these parcels,” the letter points out. “Other County ordinances may also be applicable and might affect future development of these parcels,” the letter adds.

Commissioner Charles Hines. File photo
Commissioner Charles Hines. File photo

One of the first four parcels created by a property split encompasses 2.77 acres with frontage on Lemon Bay. It was offered for sale to the county earlier this year for $1,145,000. However, on a 3-2 vote on Jan. 12, the County Commission turned down the opportunity. Commissioners Christine Robinson and Carolyn Mason were in the minority.

Commissioner Charles Hines made the motion to forgo the purchase; Vice Chair Paul Caragiulo seconded it. Chair Al Maio voted with Hines and Caragiulo.

That parcel is located within the Coastal Hammocks Protection Priority Site, which was adopted within the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program (ESLPP), a Jan. 12 staff memo explains. “[It] contains rare tropical hardwood hammock and mangrove swamp habitat,” the memo says, adding that three adjacent parcels also were nominated for the ESLPP program. Staff documents also pointed out, “The rare tropical hardwood hammock, a native vegetative community,” has almost disappeared from Southwest Florida.

The board decision

A number of Manasota Key residents objected to the potential sale, saying the county’s acquisition of the property — or public use of it — would violate the state’s Manasota Key Conservation District Act of 1971. The purpose of that act is to “preserve the natural beauty, marine, animal and bird life of the district, the Jan. 12 county staff memo noted.

The act also states that no land within that district can be used for any purpose other than single-family homes.

The staff memo further pointed out that “Manasota Key residents have expressed concern that the [four] parcels will be developed as parks and thus provide public access, increase traffic, negatively impact the habitat, attract unlawful activity and jeopardize the security and safety of residents.”

In making his motion, Hines noted, “A large number of folks on Manasota Key are opposed to this.” At the same time, he said, the expense “will bust” the ESLPP budget.

The latest action

An aerial from the Property Appraiser's Office shows one of the parcels in question. Image courtesy Sarasota County
An aerial from the Property Appraiser’s Office shows one of the newest parcels created on Manasota Key. Image courtesy Sarasota County

County staff members Loveridge and Thompson requested in their Feb. 24 letter that property owners Hosman and Bauer contact the county “to review the matter accordingly and ensure compliance with the Sarasota County Code of Ordinances so that there are clear expectations regarding any future development proposals.”

Chapter 74 of the County Code says in Section 31 that when “subdivision of any land is proposed, the owner of the land or his authorized agent shall apply for and secure approval of such subdivision in accordance with … these regulations.” Until that approval is granted, the code continues, “no lots or parcels which would be created by the proposed subdivision shall be sold, nor shall any building permit be approved for the erection of any structure on said lots or parcels.”

The section also explains that the basic application process for creating a subdivision entails three primary reviews:

“1. Preliminary subdivision plan approval by County staff, which will be completed within approximately fifteen (15) working days or twenty (20) working days if the County is required to incorporate the Preliminary Plan into a County Basin Master Plan;

“2. Final Construction Plan Approval by County staff, which will be completed within approximately fifteen (15) working days; and said approval shall be for two (2) years; and

“3. Final plat review and submittal to the Board of County Commissioners for approval, which will be completed within approximately thirty (30) working days (approximately twenty (20) working days by Land Development Services and approximately ten working days by County Attorney’s office).”

Donna Thompson. File photo
Donna Thompson. File photo

Furthermore, the code makes it clear that any subdivision must have the appropriate zoning in place, depending on the intended use of the property.

In response to a News Leader request this week, county spokesman Drew Winchester reported on March 1 that Loveridge “has been in touch with the owners. They are currently in the process of setting up a meeting to discuss the platting process under the county land development regulations.”

The News Leader was unsuccessful in reaching Hosman or Bauer.

The property owners

In a search of Florida Division of Corporation records this week, the News Leader found that Hosman’s firm, Manasota Key 13 LLC — the same entity that offered the parcel to the county earlier this year — is registered with the state. Its application, submitted in March 2012, shows that Manasota Key 13 originally was organized in South Dakota on Oct. 25, 2010. Hosman, named as the registered agent in Florida, provided an address in Omaha, NE. The firm’s latest annual report, submitted in January 2015, still lists Hosman as the agent with his principal address in Omaha but with a mailing address on Manasota Key Road in Englewood.

The News Leader was unsuccessful in reaching him at the Omaha phone number he listed on the state records. The voicemail indicated its memory was full. He provided no Florida phone number.

Further, the News Leader could find no active listing for Bauer’s firm — Bay Breeze LLC — in the Division of Corporations’ records this week. Additionally, the News Leader located no inactive listing for Bay Breeze LLC that includes Bauer’s name. Bay Breeze has an office in Englewood listed as the mailing address on the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office website.

The News Leader did place a call to Bay Breeze International Realty in Venice, but the owner said she had no knowledge of Bauer. “He’s not connected to us,” she added.

An aerial shows Manasota Key in south Sarasota County. Image from Google Maps
An aerial shows Manasota Key in south Sarasota County. Image from Google Maps

In regard to the four latest parcels on Manasota Key that Loveridge and Thompson referenced in their Feb. 24 letter, a News Leader check of the Property Appraiser’s records show that of the two owned by Bay Breeze LLC, one is 49,082 square feet; the other, 49,313 square feet. The property listing notes for each of them, “There are no values associated with this parcel.” Both are listed as vacant residential sites.

The other two parcels are identified as being owned by Manasota Key 13 LLC, with the same Omaha address Hosman listed in his filings with the Division of Corporations. One is 68,778 square feet; the second, 73,019 square feet. As with the Bay Breeze properties, no values are given for them, and they are listed as vacant residential sites.

Property records also show Fred Hosman and Susan J. Hosman own a house on Manasota Key Road, though their parcel is not among any of those cited in the letter.