Residents urged the Board of Zoning Appeals not to give an inch as 1-800-ASK-GARY founder Gary Kompothecras plans a hotel on the island.
A Board of Zoning Appeals meeting regarding an appeal to allow taller buildings to be placed closer to the sidewalk in Siesta Key created some confusing conversations June 12. “By the time this is over, we’ll all have a headache,” Board of Zoning Appeals Chairman Paul Radauskas joked.
The board heard an appeal from land use attorney Charlie Bailey, the man who is representing 1-800-ASK-GARY founder Gary Kompothecras in his efforts to change existing regulations to build a hotel on Siesta Key.
The debate was over how many feet a tall building would need to be from the sidewalk in a commercial district in Siesta Key, like the Village or the Stickney Point Road area.
“Either the zoning administrator has the final word, or the County Commission has the right to determine what the setback will be. That’s really what the crux of the matter is.”
Donna Thompson, a zoning administrator for the county, issued an interpretation in April that said the minimum setback is 2 feet, except where the building is 35 feet tall or more. In that case, the building must be set back 25 feet from the street, or half the height — whichever is greater.
Bailey argued the interpretation was incorrect. The County Commission has the “unfettered right” to require an applicant to have a higher street yard setback, Bailey said, up to the maximum set out in the code.
“Either the zoning administrator has the final word, or the County Commission has the right to determine what the setback will be,” said board Chairman Paul Radauskas. “That’s really what the crux of the matter is.”
Members of the public urged the board not to side with Bailey. Much of the dissent from the public was about the possible next steps if this appeal was approved: the prophesied hotel on the Key.
“The whole Siesta Key is against what they’re trying to do,” said Karen Williams, manager of the Marina del Sol condominium, although what exactly they’re trying to do has been ambiguous from the start.
Assistant County Attorney David Pearce was quick to remind board members more than once not to consider any proposed or potential plans, but to only look at the information and the code in front of them.
After the presentations drew several complaints of confusion, as well as numerous extended silences where discussion and questioning would normally take place, the board eventually voted 3-2 in favor of the administrator’s interpretation. According to the vote, the minimum setback would change invariably if the building’s height exceeded 35 feet, not based on a decision from the County Commission.