Beach construction request denied after appeal

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Vote further hinders Mike Holderness’ desire to build home near Access 3

By Phil Colpas

In a rare unanimous ruling against development, the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners on March 29 upheld its earlier vote to deny a coastal setback variance for a Siesta Key property on Miramar Beach.
Previously, on Jan. 13, 2021, the BOCC unanimously denied a request by Siesta Key property owner Michael Holderness to construct a two-story-over-parking, single-family home entirely seaward of North Beach Road, and just north of Beach Access 3. The board cited the dynamic shoreline and the impact the proposal would have on the dune system as its primary reasons for denial.
Holderness appealed the verdict.
According to an inter-office memorandum to the BOCC from Frederick Elbrecht, county attorney: In April 2021, the county attorney’s office received a request for relief from Siesta Beach Lots, LLC, which invoked the requirements of the Florida Land Use and Environmental Dispute Resolution Act (FLUEDRA).
Holderness is listed as the primary of Siesta Lots, LLC.
“This request related to the Board’s Feb. 24, 2021, denial of a coastal setback variance petition for the property located at Lot 14, Block 7 of the Miramar Beach subdivision,” the letter read. “Siesta Beach Lots sought construction of a pile-supported, two-story-over-parking, single-family residence. It also sought construction of a swimming pool, pool deck, driveway and landscaping retaining wall. Construction would have taken place a maximum of 189.61 feet seaward of the Sarasota County gulf beach setback line.”
After the board denied the coastal setback variance, Siesta Beach Lots filed a FLUEDRA petition, alleging that the Board’s action was “unreasonable” and “unfairly burdens the use of the property.” Siesta Beach Lots argued that its application met all code criteria, and that the Board’s action was “arbitrary” and “capricious” based on the Board’s prior approval of other coastal setback variances. Siesta Beach Lots also alleged that the board considered “erroneous” and “irrelevant” information during its “quasi-judicial” hearing.
The special magistrate conducted an unsuccessful mediation on June 18, 2021, and hearings on the merits of the petition on June 18, Nov. 3 and Feb. 28. On March 1, after the conclusion of the hearing, Siesta Beach Lots disclosed to the special magistrate that a “building restrictive covenant” was placed on the property pursuant to a contract entered on Jan. 20, 2021.
As part of his analysis, the special magistrate found that Siesta Beach Lots had contracted away its right to construct a single-family home prior to the board’s denial of the coastal setback variance.
“Through a restrictive covenant, Siesta Beach Lots limited itself to the construction of a tiki hut on the property. Essentially, Siesta Beach Lots rendered its own application development order moot,” read the letter. “Therefore, the special magistrate concluded that the board’s development order is not unreasonable, nor does it unfairly burden the property.”
On March 8, the county attorney’s office received the special magistrate’s recommendation that the board’s development order should remain undisturbed. The county attorney’s office followed suit, recommending that the board accept the special magistrate’s recommendation.
The board would vote unanimously to accept the recommendation.
Assistant county attorney David Pearce represented the board during this litigation.
Holderness said he made an under-market value offer in March for the county to buy the property with the stipulation that the county use it as a public beach and install a lifeguard, but the county is not interested.
“The county denied the right to enjoy any reasonable use of the property but continues to use it as an unmanaged de facto public beach,” Holderness said. “We will continue efforts to hold our government accountable and pursue remedies in federal court.”

Phil Colpas
Author: Phil Colpas

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