North Shore Road neighbors who oppose a home being built on a small, narrow lot in their neighborhood decided last week not to appeal the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s April decision to grant a variance for the property.
Those neighbors, though, plan to watch construction of the home closely. They also aren’t giving up their rights to future legal recourse if they believe the home affects their quality of life and decreases their property values.
Approximately 15 North Shore Road neighbors attended the April 10 zoning board meeting to protest the variance, asking the board to deem the lot unbuildable, deny the variance and keep the property a vacant lot forever.
Diane and Glenn Goll, the owners of the lot, agreed to a proposed request by planning staff for a variance that increases the allowed building coverage from 25% to 27%, which allows the Golls to build a 1,600-square-foot house on the narrow lot.
Without that variance, a home can’t be built there. The zoning board approved the variance in April.
Senior Planner Steve Schield said staff recommended the variance, noting the lot is legally non-conforming and is zoned for residential use.
“Other properties in the area have been granted variances,” Schield said. “Denying a similar variance would deny them of rights granted to other property owners.”
The zoning board denied the lot a different variance in March 2012. Neighbors thought the denial meant the lot was unbuildable.
Planning, Zoning and Building Director Alaina Ray, though, said the 2012 variance request asked for too large a footprint and too many setback requests.
Wendi Bundy and Maureen Merrigan live on the west side of the vacant lot at 301 North Shore Road, and Thomas Munsell lives on the other side of the lot at 361 North Shore Road.
The neighbors tried to purchase the property from the Golls in August 2013, when the Golls decided to put the lot up for sale when they couldn’t get a hearing because the zoning board could not obtain a quorum.
“Our offer was above fair market value, but we never heard back about it and before we knew it, it was scheduled for a variance request and neighbors got a 10-day notice,” Bundy said. “Some neighbors said they never got the notice.”
Sixteen North Shore Road neighbors signed a petition stating the home, which will have two stories on stilts, “will impact the quality of the neighborhood.”
The neighbors said they all considered buying the lot at one time years ago when they bought their homes, but were told it was unbuildable.
“Surveyors have come and gone over the years and not purchased it because it doesn’t make sense,” Bundy said. “This house will be too tall and too wide.”
Munsell owns a one-story cottage next to the lot that he purchased with his wife with the intent to retire there permanently in a few years.
“We were going to retire there and install solar energy there in our home,” Munsell said. “Now we will have no sunlight once that home is built and our dream is shattered. I don’t want to live in darkness.”
Bundy, Merrigan and Munsell let a May 10 deadline to appeal the zoning board decision in court pass.
“We have no doubt a circuit court would remand this back to the town, but it will come up before the same board and they will reach a similar conclusion based on their facts,” Munsell said.
Munsell and other neighbors say they don’t understand why the zoning board didn’t grant the minimum variance allowed, which was 1,490 square feet.
Ray said that because past variance for lots on North Shore Road were approved for a minimum of 1,600 square feet, which is the standard that the zoning board applied for this property as well.
“It’s the minimum footprint required for the zoning district,” Ray said.
Munsell said residents “will be managing the build of the new home closely.”
“We’re concerned about the elevation of the building on the lot and neighbors want to make sure it’s built as close to the ground as it can and is as small as it can be,” he said.
Munsell also said property owners will take legal recourse if the new structure affects neighboring property values.
“We still have legal recourse even though we are not appealing,” Munsell said. “And we will hold out hope the Golls would rather sell the lot to us or build a smaller home.”
Munsell said it will be awkward for the Golls to build a home in a neighborhood that doesn’t want one built.
Sarasota attorney Michael Furen, who represented the Golls, urged the zoning board and residents in April to realize this is a buildable lot.
“This pure variance is necessary to have any reasonable use of their property moving forward,” Furen said. “Without the variance, they simply can’t build on the property.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]