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Siesta Key Wednesday, Sep. 2, 2020 1 year ago

Commissioners deny Siesta development on Beach Road

Commissioners feared approval of the project would set a bad precedent for the island.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

A petition for a coastal setback variance to enable a six-unit condominium complex at 636 Beach Road, which would stretch nearly 200 feet seaward of the county’s normal beachfront setbacks, was denied by county commissioners who feared approval would set a bad precedent for the area.

During an Aug. 27 meeting, Saba Sands LLC sought approval to demolish a two-story single-family residence and replace it with a three-story condo complex. At its farthest point, the project would have stretched 191 feet seaward of the normal limit.

However, Stephen Rees, an attorney for Saba Sand, said the new property would not impact Siesta Key’s coastal water system. He said it would be built 793 feet from the Mean High Water Line, which would permit “reasonable use of the property.”

To get approval for the project, the board would have needed to permit a coastal setback variance, which Rees said had been granted to a similar property in 2011 located at 610 Beach Road. Still, the board denied Saba Sand’s petition after a nearly two-hour-long hearing.

Commissioner Nancy Detert questioned whether all owners of property on Beach Road could request approval of larger structures that would cross the setback line if commissioners approved the Saba Sands project.

“Couldn’t they do the exact same thing or at least ask permission to do it?” Detert asked.

Howard Berna, manager of the county’s environmental permitting, said some homeowners would probably be able to ask and couldn’t definitively say whether Saba Sands would be the only property owner on Beach Road to receive a variance.

“I’m not anti-property owner,” Detert said. “But to me, you’ve got what you bought.”

Detert said because Siesta Key has won several awards, such as TripAdvisor’s No. 1 beach in the U.S., many investors will want to buy property on the area. However, the county, she said, should consider which projects it should allow, to not change the natural look of the barrier island.

Christine Johnson, president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, said the project would bring environmental concerns, especially to shorebirds.

Because the project would have replaced one dwelling unit with six, Johnson said the project has a high probability of disturbing wildlife, such as snowy plovers, that settle on the beach. 

Siesta Key Association president Catherine Luckner also noted that dredging is underway in Big Pass to renourish Lido Beach, and residents are still unsure of the effects it will have on Siesta.


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