In the last week, two town boards postponed a request for a variance and special exception to a Jewfish Key boat dock, which acts as the main thoroughfare for residents getting on and off the island.
The move puts the future of the dock — and how residents get to and from the island — at risk, because a portion of the dock that was added illegally in 2004 is set for removal by state and town officials in the next 30 days.
The Jewfish Preservation Association Inc., which acts as the homeowners association for the five homes and 16 total deeded home lots on the island, brought forward a variance request to the Zoning Board of Adjustment Thursday, Jan. 14, which would allow the dock to extend 125 feet further into Sarasota Bay than currently allowed.
The request asks the town to reconstruct the common dock to allow for eight mooring areas and have an overall projection into the water of 175 feet.
Because a large sandbar west of Jewfish Key makes it impossible for at least five of the lots to build their own private docks, the main dock is crucial to current and future residents trying to travel to and from the mainland. Construction workers and businesses that offer their services to the island also use the dock.
But the dock, which consists of a loading platform that construction workers use, was illegally altered in 2004; the area around the dock was also illegally dredged. As a condition of obtaining a building permit for the proposed new dock, and as part of a consent order from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to close the violation case, the section of the dock that was illegally added needs to be removed.
The association obtained a demolition permit to remove the illegal portion of the dock this month.
But at the zoning board meeting, Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson asked for a continuance of the request until the board’s February meeting, so it can work with the applicant to consider adding additional spaces for boats.
At the meeting, attorney Michael Friday told the board that the dock would provide access for three of the five homeowners and access for the remainder of the buildable home lots. Two of the current homeowners did not wish to contribute money to the dock or be a part of its renovation, and Friday said if they wanted access in the future, they would have to come back to the town to make a zoning request to do so.
But Simpson said she would rather the town work with the applicant to see if it can create a dock that would work for all involved parties and would eliminate the need for future variance requests.
Friday, however, was frustrated with the decision.
“I hope that my being forthright about future variances doesn’t delay this project,” Friday said. “It was the other homeowners’ decision not to take part in a larger structure, and this dock is six years in the making.”
The zoning board voted to continue the request, and the Planning and Zoning Board also continued a special exception request for the dock until the issue can be resolved.
Town planner Steve Schield, meanwhile, said the association can ask for a continuance of the demolition permit if it believes the illegal portion of the dock is needed to get on and off the island before the town grants its request.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org
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