Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Quiet Victory for Island Residents

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Quiet Victory for Island Residents

Article excerpt

Residents on Manasota Key in Englewood earned a quiet victory last week when the Charlotte County Commission instructed its staff to honor restrictions on setbacks and pile-driving.

Everyone thought the setback issue had been resolved in 2005, when the county adopted special zoning rules for the barrier island, rules designed to protect open space, preserve a quiet environment and prevent a proliferation of multi-story condos.

The rules call for 10-foot setbacks between adjoining properties, which is hardly unreasonable and has been enforced since adoption. However, county staff has recently started interpreting the rules as requiring only 5 feet for smaller lots measuring 50 feet.

Anyone who has ever followed building and zoning codes knows that even the most seemingly clear-cut language can be interpreted different ways, sometimes shifting with the political winds.

In this case, we had a nice sea breeze blowing from the west as commissioners Ken Doherty and Bill Truex advocated for the south Manasota Key community's intent when it crafted the zoning overlay district in 2005.

Although the county attorney's office fretted over some ambiguities, Doherty insisted the 10-foot setback rules were intended as the standard for the 50-foot lots, which are the majority of properties on the key.

"I don't think it's logical that non-conforming lots were excluded from the original," he said. His peers agreed.

Truex took the lead on the pile-driving, a source of consternation for island residents who have lived through several projects in which the pounding, pounding, pounding of pilings for condos and homes has not only assailed the senses but damaged nearby buildings.

The commissioners ended up supporting the wording of a citizens advisory panel, which has updated the zoning rules for consideration by the commission.

If amendments are adopted, they would not outlaw pile-driving, but they would demand enough prep work and documentation that builders would choose an alternative, such as auguring, which is not nearly so intrusive. …

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