A proposed city zoning change has some of Sarasota’s neighborhood advocates concerned about the potential impact.
If approved, the change would alter the way certain non-conforming, adjoined zoning lots could be developed, thus potentially altering the total number of homes in a given neighborhood.
“My question is: What is the full impact?” said Kate Lowman, president of the Laurel Park Neighborhood Association.
Lowman said she and other neighborhood advocates throughout the city had recently learned about the proposed change, one of several proposed, “zoning text amendments,” and are studying it to determine how the change would specifically affect their neighborhoods.
The change is one of the zoning amendments in a 58-page document that the planning board will discuss next month. City commissioners have the final vote on the change.
The change would ease restrictions on non-conforming, adjoined properties so that owners, with city staff approval, could add an addition, sell a home or, in some cases, build an additional residential unit — which is prohibited under the current zoning code.
The change would only impact specific properties, said senior planner Dr. Clifford Smith.
“Realistically, I don’t think there will be that many,” Smith said of the anticipated impact if the change is approved.
Smith said city planners did not know exactly how many parcels would be impacted.
The zoning text amendment was created with only certain properties in focus, many of which became illegal lots when they were joined under a single ownership in the 1970s and 1980s, Smith said. One example would be if a homeowner inherited a mother’s property next door and put both properties under one ownership.
But Lourdes Ramirez, a Siesta Key resident and president of Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA), predicts a large impact for city neighborhoods.
On Siesta Key, neighborhood advocates have been grappling with a county zoning rule that is similar to the change being proposed in the city.
“It is complicated,” said Ramirez. “Right now, what (the city) is proposing would make something that doesn’t fit the code, fit the code. How will that impact the density?”
The proposed change in Sarasota would open the door to problems, Ramirez said. It’s better to have a simple code, she said, that clearly states what is allowed — rather than allowing city planning staff to make an ad-hoc decision on how many residences can be built on non-conforming property.
“Anyone who moves into a neighborhood would never truly know what that density of that neighborhood is,” Ramirez said. “The code has to be clear.”