Siesta Key Land Grab? Yes.
By Mike Cosentino, Guest Columnist
Maybe you read the guest column by Dennis and Wendy Madden in Tuesday’s Sarasota Herald Tribune (9/27/16). Space limitations do not allow me to refute the plethora of falsehoods therein, but here are two examples:
Maddens: “This permit being approved concurrently with the closure of the road to cars perhaps led some, like Siesta Key resident Mike Cosentino, to incorrectly characterize the road closure as a ‘land grab’ allowing more condo units…. This could not be further from the truth.”
Though appropriate, I have not addressed this problem as a “land grab” (although they use the phrase with quotes in their article). Nevertheless, I shall use the Sarasota County Planning and Development Services Report on the Maddens’ Coastal Setback Variance Petition, dated 5/11/16, and signed by then-Director Thomas Polk and Weiqi Lin, P.E., PhD., Environmental Permitting, to respond to the Maddens’ claims:
“The Petitioners [Maddens] have also filed a Street Vacation Petition to seek the County Commission’s approval to close that section of Beach Road so that an additional 8,265 sq.ft. area, resulting from the Street Vacation Request, can be used to calculate the dwelling unit density, as proposed in this Variance Request. Without the Road Vacation, the proposed construction activities in this Variance Request do not meet current Zoning Regulations with respect to density calculations and setbacks.” (emphasis added)
So, to be clear, the Street Vacation lets them “grab” 8,265 sq.ft. of land, which allows them AN EXTRA condo unit. Further, the Street Vacation enables them to connect their landward and seaward parcels, thereby allowing for 3 (three) ADDITIONAL condo units. In total, their “land grab” gives them 4 extra condo units. To reiterate, the direct result of their “land grab” is to get from the currently allowable maximum of 2 units to a “post-landgrab” total of 6 units.
“But wait,” they will probably reply, “we went from 12 units to 6 units.” In fact, the bottom two paragraphs of the middle column of their article speak of their reducing the density from 12 to 6 units and that “reducing development on barrier islands and pulling the line of construction further from the beach and gulf has long been a county goal and a recognized significant public benefit.” Well, yeah, but by demolishing the existing sparingly-used buildings, they voluntarily reduce their current non-conforming density of 12 units to the maximum ALLOWABLE density of 2 units (this is because of the square-footage increase of the footprint of the proposed structure). When the 4 units resulting from the “land grab” are added to the 2 allowable units, the total of 6 units represents an increase in both density and intensity in a coastal high-hazard area, which is specifically prohibited by code.
These facts are supported in the aforementioned CSV Petition Report by Planning and Development Services as follows from page 4 of that report:
“The proposed residential structure and associated new construction activities are significantly larger than the existing residential structures. Based on the area comparison table provided by the Petitioners [Maddens], the following items have shown an increase seaward of the GBSL [Gulf Beach Setback Line]:” (emphasis added)
- Habitable area is increased 41%
- Enclosed non-habitable area is increased 1,134.5%
- Unenclosed non-habitable area is increased 31.5%
- The proposed residential structure is located more seaward than the existing residential structures.
It seems like someone’s pants are on fire. But I digress. Did I mention that the Maddens have sued me, personally, for “false and misleading statements.” I’m not kidding.
Folks, while it is certainly complicated to untangle and understand the litany of somewhat, kinda, possibly, maybe just a tad-bit-correct statements in the Maddens’ column, this issue is really quite simple. It is absurd to even attempt to equate the value of a public right of way to the value of a pedestrian access easement over someone else’s private property. To claim that there is a public benefit to changing the designation of Beach Road from the former to the latter is downright dishonest. As a public right of way we can rebuild our road, add parking spaces and ADA-compliant sidewalks, landscaping, benches, shoreline protection, etc., etc. All of these things are specifically prohibited in the revocable-without-our-consent, pedestrian, non-vehicular, limited access easement across what would become their private property and guarantee that we have no say in the matter whatsoever. Not now. Not ever. In perpetuity, as my opposition is fond of saying, we get squat. So, to conclude, we refuse to abandon our vested Public Interest in Beach Road and make it the private property of the Maddens and their neighbors. Period.
Once again, I hereby challenge Charlie Bailey, the Maddens and their neighbors, all of their attorneys, the County Attorney and his entire staff, and any or all of our County Commissioners to an open, public debate on this issue. Anytime. Anywhere. I will have my attorney stay home. It seems like they would relish such an opportunity. I mean, really, it’s all of them against lil ol’ me, a carpenter without a college degree.
Should anyone out there like further information, please visit www.reopenbeachroad.com, or call me at home: 346-2584. Please help me protect your right to public beach access, and the similar collective rights of the mobility and vision impaired citizens of and visitors to our community.