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Longboat Key Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010 11 years ago

Length of Jewfish dock causes concern

by: Kurt Schultheis and Robin Hartill

The Jewfish Key boat dock will grow in size if the Zoning Board of Adjustment approves a variance request next week to extend the current 50-foot dock an additional 176-feet into Sarasota Bay.

And Longbeach Village residents are worried about the expansion of a dock that would grow from a single dock to a multi-use dock.

Longbeach Village Association Michael Drake addressed the issue at the group’s Feb. 3 meeting.

“This would allow a 500-square-foot dock to grow to 2,150 square feet on the easterly side of Jewfish Key,” Drake said. “That’s almost (the size of) a football field.”

Drake expressed concerns that if approved, it would set a precedent and a dock that size could eventually be built on the west side of Jewfish Key and be an eyesore for Village residents.

But Town Planner Steve Schield said that’s not the case.

“This dock variance wouldn’t set a precedent at all,” Schield said.

Two town boards postponed a request for a variance and special exception to the main Jewfish Key boat dock, which acts as the main thoroughfare for residents getting on and off the island, last month.

The move put the future of the dock and how residents get on and off the island easily at risk because a portion of the dock that was added illegally in 2004 is set for removal by state and town officials within the next 15 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 Jan. 14, which would allow the dock to extend 125 feet farther into Sarasota Bay than currently allowed.

The request asked the town to reconstruct the common dock that’s used by residents and construction workers, 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 some current and future residents trying to get to and from the mainland. Construction workers and businesses that offer their services to the island also use the dock.

But the current main dock, which consists of a loading platform that construction workers use, was illegally altered and the area around the dock was illegally dredged in 2004. 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.

But at the January 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 only three of the five homeowners and access for the remainder of the buildable home lots. Two of the current homeowners did not wish 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.

What the planning staff is bringing back to the zoning board for its Feb. 11 meeting is a revised variance request that allows the other two lot owners with shallow lots to come back at any time to add onto the dock.

So instead of building a 12-slip, 226-feet dock, the current request is asking for an eight-slip boat dock with six boatlifts and two community slips.

And the dock can be expanded to allow for the additional four slips and length if the other lot owners want slips at a future date.

“The intent is to build a dock that can accommodate all the lot owners on the west side of the island without them having to come back to the town to ask for another variance,” said Town Planner Steve Schield.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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