Sarasota County Commission Chairwoman Christine Robinson is working with neighborhood associations to set the record straight on the installation of chickee huts on private property.
In recent discussions with representatives of the Siesta Key and Casey Key associations, Robinson pointed out that a couple of homeowners in the southern part of the county had been convinced by contractors that chickee huts were exempt from all applicable regulations. That is not the case, Robinson said in an interview.
In a letter this month to SKA President Catherine Luckner, Robinson wrote, “The construction of chickee huts requires compliance with the state’s coastal construction permit program, Sarasota County’s Setback Code, Sarasota County’s Myakka River Protection Code and Sarasota County’s zoning regulations, among other requirements.”
Robinson added, “After-the-fact permits and penalties for not complying with regulations can be very expensive, and, ultimately, a chickee hut constructed which violates these regulations may be required to be removed.”
In an interview, Robinson said she had seen the difficulties the South County homeowners had encountered while working with county permitting officials after learning their contractors had misinformed them about exemptions for the chickee huts.
“We’re trying to alert everybody,” Robinson said, “so no one else gets caught with a chickee hut that does not comply with all the applicable regulations.”
“There has been a myth for many, many years,” Luckner said, about exempt chickee-hut construction.
An inter-office memo from County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh to the county commissioners, dated Jan. 17, references Section 553.73(10)(i) of the Florida State Statutes. It notes the exemption of chickee huts from regulation under the Florida Building Code if the huts are constructed by the Miccosukee or Seminole Indian tribes of Florida.
As defined in the statute, a chickee “means an open-sided wooden hut that has a thatched roof of palm or palmetto or other traditional materials and that does not incorporate any electrical, plumbing or other non-wood features.”
DeMarsh added, “The Coastal Setback Code generally prohibits any construction or excavation seaward of the Gulf Beach Setback Line or Barrier Island Twenty-Year Hazard Line,” unless the property owner receives a variance from the County Commission.
For a second example, DeMarsh pointed out, “The Myakka River Protection Code also generally prohibits construction and development within the 50-foot river buffer area, unless otherwise authorized by the administrator or board.”
Finally, as a third example, he wrote county zoning regulations do not allow structures more than 30 inches above the ground within certain setback areas for streets, backyards, side yards and waterfront areas.
Anyone with a question about installing a chickee hut should contact the county at 861-5000.