Requests involving two single-family docks on Avenida del Norte won unanimous approval Sept. 27 from the Sarasota County Commission.
The commission also directed staff to put future requests involving that area of the Key on the consent agenda.
If any unusual circumstances arose with a subsequent request, Chairwoman Nora Patterson said, a commissioner would be able to pull the item for discussion.
Howard J. Berna, environmental supervisor with the county’s Natural Resources Department, reminded the commissioners during their regular meeting that the situation along Avenida del Norte and Canal Road, which run along part of Siesta Key’s Grand Canal, is an unusual scenario in the county.
According to material Berna provided the board, from 1972 to 1980, the County Commission authorized 10 license agreements that allowed private citizens to maintain or construct docks along several county rights of way. The licensees were usually owners of private property right across streets from the docks.
Then, the commission approved a resolution March 9, 1993, prohibiting private docks on county property and sought the removal of unauthorized docks and vessels from public lands and waters. During a public hearing Sept. 21, 1993, the board decided that the current owners of docks with existing license agreements would be able to execute new agreements. If they did not do so by May 15, 1994, their docks would be removed at their expense.
On June 4, 2004, the County Commission discussed nine license agreements associated with properties along Avenida del Norte and Canal Road. Out of the nine, six shorelines still had docks at that time. However, each of those docks was found out of compliance with the conditions of the licensing agreements. In 2005, several residents of Avenida del Norte filed suit against the county regarding the narrow strip of waterfront property along the canal, adjacent to the street. It was the third lawsuit involving that strip in 20 years. The county had lost the earlier ones.
Judge Robert W. McDonald Jr. ruled May 12, 2008, that the county should be stopped from arguing ownership of the disputed land between the county right of way and the shoreline. As a result, those properties for which owners could demonstrate that land existed waterward of the county right of way were allowed to obtain permits for construction of private docks. For those portions of the shoreline, where the mean high water line is located within the county right of way, a dock could be authorized only through an agreement with the County Commission.
Regarding the two cases Tuesday, Berna said the shoreline adjacent to the property at 663 Avenida del Norte is contained within that Avenida del Norte right of way. The County Commission in 1994 approved a license agreement to a former property owner, and a dock exists along that shoreline, he said. The current property owner, Michael Stafford, requested a transfer of the license agreement to his name.
No dock exists at 675 Avenida del Norte, Berna said, but the shoreline also is within the county right of way.
Berna said subsequent to the preparation of these agenda items, the owner of the property at 667 Avenida del Norte also had applied for a license agreement. The owner of 653 was awaiting the commission’s decisions Tuesday to decide on an application.