After a disappointing hearing in front of the Sarasota County Board of Zoning Appeals Monday, “King of the High Wire” Nik Wallenda’s plans for a training facility in his hometown are on the line.
Wallenda had asked for a setback variance at his recently-acquired property on 51st Street near its intersection with North Lockwood Ridge Road, but was denied with a 3-5 vote. The plans were for a single-family home with a built-in training area.
Former Sarasota Mayor Elmer Berkel made the motion to deny the request.
The proposal was aimed at saving a row of live oak trees near the front of the property, which he purchased in three parcels last year for more than $100,000, according to Sarasota County Property Appraiser records.
Wallenda has spent between $5,000 and $7,000 during the planning process, and has reduced the side of the facility from previous drafts, but said shrinking the proposed building any further would impede on his training.
“It’s just like Michael Jordan, who has a basketball court inside his house — that’s what he needs to train properly,” Wallenda said in an interview with the Sarasota Observer Wednesday. “There’s a certain size (building) I need in order to practice and train indoors.”
Squirrels used to bury claimed nuts under a fence that was running through the property, which led to the growth of nine oak trees in a row where the structure used to stand. Wallenda, who has an arborist in his family tree, said he is unwilling to cut them down.
Wallenda said he could file a lawsuit, but instead would likely appeal the decision, or return with a different design.
"I'm not asking for anything outrageous," Wallenda said. "I’m doing it for the right reason: to save these trees."