The Zoning Board of Adjustment didn’t meet for months because it could not reach a quorum of at least four board members. But members made up for their lack of meetings with a marathon nine-hour meeting April 10, at Longboat Key Town Hall.
The meeting dragged on into the evening hours over a requested variance for a single-family home lot at 321 North Shore Road.
Approximately 15 North Shore Road residents attended to protest the variance, saying the lot is unbuildable, shouldn’t receive any variance and should remain a vacant lot forever.
Glenn and Diane Goll, the owners of the lot, requested a variance that would increase the allowed building coverage from 25% to 27%, that would allow the Golls to build a 1,600-square-foot house on the narrow lot.
Without that variance, a home can’t be built on the lot.
Senior Planner Steve Schield said staff recommended the variance, noting the lot is legally nonconforming 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. Staff feels the minimum variance for this property is reasonable.”
Sarasota attorney Michael Furen, who represented the Golls, urged the board to grant the variance.
“This pure variance is necessitated because it’s necessary to have any reasonable use of their property moving forward,” Furen said. “Without the variance, they simply can’t build on the property. Even with the variance proposed, the footprint is considerably less than other homes in the area.”
Glenn Goll, who noted he and his wife have been trying to receive a variance on the property for more than a year when the zoning board had trouble reaching a quorum, urged the board to grant the request.
“Our intention is to build something that would fit with the neighborhood and accommodate our children when they visit,” Glenn Goll said.
But residents and Tampa-based attorney Don Hemke, hired by a group of North Shore Road property owners, urged the board not to give the Golls any variance. Hemke cited several previous cases in various Florida communities to explain why the board could deny the request.
Neighbors claimed the Golls knowingly bought what North Shore Road neighbors believed to be an unbuildable lot for years.
“Shoehorning any house on that yard with that narrow side yard would look terrible,” said North Shore Road resident Tom Munsell, who said his real estate agent informed him the variance would devalue his home, which sits next door to the lot. “Variances like this pillage the profile of the island.”
During cross-examination by Furen, Munsell confirmed for Furen that if the variance was denied, he and another neighbor were interested in buying the lot to keep it vacant.
Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale informed board members they had to use “historical precedence” when making their decision.
Historical precedence, outlined by planning staff, showed that the town has historically required 1,600 square feet as the minimum floor area size for lots in this area.
All four members of the board present during the agenda item, though, approved the variance just before 6:30 p.m., noting a hardship exists on a legally platted lot zoned for residential use.
“We have to grant some kind of variance for this lot,” said zoning board Chairwoman Gaele Barthold. “We can’t make an emotional decision.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org