Before considering the possibility of new setback rules, commissioners ask for more guidance.
What was supposed to be the conclusion of a debate that’s put Siesta Key business owners and residents at odds since early summer ended in a continuance by the County Commission.
At its Jan. 30 meeting, the commission held a public hearing on the possibility of changing Siesta Key zoning regulations that could allow buildings in commercial areas to be built closer to the sidewalks.
The change would have eliminated a strict set of regulations in favor of a system in which setbacks would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Although commissioners were open to the change, they debated over the language of the zoning text amendment and wanted to see more guidelines on how they would make such decisions.
“Put very simply, there’s just a lot of question marks here,” Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said at the end of a more than four-hour hearing. “There’s just way too many unknowns, and I’d like to have our staff dive a little more into the planning piece of this.’’
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the change in December, but staff wrote in a memo to the County Commission that clearer guidelines about how setbacks should be decided were needed.
More than 20 Siesta Key residents on hand spoke in opposition to the change. Only Mark Smith, a Siesta Key architect and business owner, spoke in favor of it.
Those against it expressed worries that reducing the setback would change the character of Siesta Key.
“Why can’t you stop this insanity in its tracks?” Robert Sax asked.
“This is a wonderful place to have fun,” said John Huber about the Key. “Please don’t take it away from us.”
Commissioners said they favored adding flexibility to the zoning code, but Commission Chairwoman Nancy Detert cautioned against allowing a petitioner — in this case, land use attorney Charlie Bailey, who was representing Siesta Key business owners — to write code.
“We should be writing the code. It’s not our job to write code so your client can put 20 pounds of mud in a 10-pound bag,” she said. “We’re willing to be creative and flexible, but I want to see our own (county) staff write code that we agree with that maybe his client fits in.”
In the end, the commission voted unanimously to put off the hearing to the afternoon of April 11. In the meantime, Bailey and county staff will work together to address commissioners’ concerns, and in April there will be another public hearing for residents to consider the amended language.