With a unanimous vote May 22, the Sarasota County Commission approved a two-year extension of the sunset date for an ordinance governing temporary use permit requests in the Siesta Key Overlay District.
Prior to the vote, Commissioner Nora Patterson asked Assistant Sarasota County Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson to check into guidelines for TUPs being granted for events designed to raise money for charitable purposes.
Patterson told Thompson that concerns had been raised among Siesta Key stakeholders that such “charitable TUPs” were being used to circumvent the county’s noise ordinance, although she added, “I don’t think [that’s] rampant.”
The commission had voted April 11 to direct staff to advertise a public hearing for the proposed extension of the TUP ordinance, to June 8, 2014. No one addressed the commission before the May 22 vote.
Thompson pointed out before the vote that the stakeholders on Siesta Key had requested the sunset extension.
Patterson, who lives on Siesta Key, told her fellow board members she had attended the Presidents Council meeting on Siesta the previous day. That meeting, she said, included representatives from the major stakeholder organizations: the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Siesta Key Village Association, the Siesta Key Association and the Siesta Key Condominium Council.
“Everybody is more than satisfied with how this TUP is working,” Patterson added.
Nonetheless, Thompson told the commission, no applications have been submitted to the zoning office for TUPs under the ordinance.
On May 1, Russell Matthes, president of the SKVA, told The Sarasota News Leader that he believed the reason no one had sought a TUP under the ordinance for a Siesta Village event was that such events were not cost-effective. Matthes pointed out at the time that the TUP ordinance allows for special events only on the following holidays: New Year’s Eve (valid until 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day), St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, July Fourth (valid until 12:30 a.m. on July 5), Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
Bars and restaurants in Siesta Village normally schedule special events for those holidays anyway, Matthes said. Ideally, the ordinance would allow for TUPs at other times of the year, especially traditionally slower periods for tourism, he added.
In discussing the charitable TUP issue May 22, Patterson said members of the Presidents Council had indicated that someone could apply for such a TUP “just because [they’re] giving $10 bucks to a nice family, and, therefore, “this TUP process [for the overlay district] that has been carefully crafted becomes useless.”
Second, she said, members of the Presidents Council said that while they did not think a charitable TUP allowed the permit holder to play live entertainment beyond normal hours allowed by the zoning code, that stipulation also was being abused.
“I don’t believe the charitable TUPs allow you to exceed what’s written in the code,” Thompson responded.
“Apparently, in real life, [charitable TUPs have] been allowed to exceed the hours,” Patterson said.
The only facet of a charitable TUP about which she was certain, Thompson said, was that if an applicant could provide documentation that the organization requesting the TUP was a 501(c)(3) nonprofit under Internal Revenue Service guidelines, the county zoning office could waive the TUP application fee.
Finally, Patterson said members of the Presidents Council had asked that, if a TUP were granted, county staff provide detailed information on the permit about the conditions the applicant had to observe, so no questions would arise if, for example, someone made a complaint to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office about an aspect of the particular event.
“I will bring that back to staff,” Thompson said, adding that perhaps the conditions could be included on each TUP to prevent problems.
“That’s great,” Patterson told her.