ENGLEWOOD –– For property owners on Manasota Key, whose beach-front properties have been ravaged by hurricanes and tropical storms, the answer is yes.
For Sarasota County commissioners, the answer is maybe.
To that end, during their May 5 meeting, commissioners asked for a report on the county’s codes and environmental regulations affecting the coastal areas of the county. That report, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis told commissioners, should be complete in 30 days.
Those regulations and how they affect homeowners trying to protect their investment is a matter of importance to Commissioner Charles Hines. He raised the issue a year ago, with no action being taken at that time.
On May 5, he raised it again.
“The elephant in the room here is shoreline hardening,” Hines said. “Houses are getting ready to fall in the water.”
Time may now be of an advantage to Hines who will vacate his commission seat in November due to term limits. Both Commissioners Nancy Detert and Alan Maio emphasized their desire to take advantage to Hines’ experience and knowledge in dealing with the issue over the past eight years before he leaves the commission.
As Maio said, the issues are “…enormously complex and tough, and, in most instances, [they involve] the most valuable asset anyone owns” — a home.”
For homeowners facing the threat of losing their home, they can spend tens of thousands of dollars on engineers, consultants and attorneys preparing a solution to protect their property. Then, they appear before the county commission, unsure if that solution will be found in compliance with the codes and thus acceptable.
In mid-April, Jim Jackson, president of the Manasota Key Association, sent commissioners a white paper prepared with the assistance of David Levin, an attorney with the Icard Merrill law firm. That white paper concluded that the county’s code presented inconsistencies with and often conflicts with state regulations.
“It is ultimately in the best interests of all involved, including the general public, for Sarasota County to abandon its antiquated and nebulous Coastal Setback Code, and replace it with detailed, explicit, and objective regulations modeled after those of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” Levin told commissioners during the discussion.
With another hurricane season approaching and a pandemic still in full sway, commissioners will have to decide both when and how the discussion, which will be of great public interest, will occur.
And the clock is ticking.