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Date of Issue: April 07, 2005

Five divided by four equals five in Anna Maria

Anna Maria residents who rejoiced following a decision by the planning and zoning board in February 2004 to reject Island Marine owner Jeff Van Hoose in his variance request to build five residential units on the property may soon be halting that celebration. The board at that time said Hoose didn't have enough square footage on each lot to build five houses, just under four.

An apparent "loophole" in the city code, however, appears to allow for five residential units on those properties. At least that's the opinion of City Attorney Jim Dye after reviewing a request from attorney Scott Rudacille, who represents prospective purchaser Jacob Martin.

Rudacille said Martin has a sales contract to purchase the property from Van Hoose for the five lots on the Island Marine property.

The attorney recently told the city it was his understanding that the five lots are approved for R-1 construction, according to the city codes, and he asked Dye to confirm that opinion.

In response, Dye agreed that five residential homes could be built on the five lots, an opinion that appears at odds with the P&Z board's Feb. 23, 2004, vote denying Hoose a variance to build a residential unit on each of the five lots, which are all in the residential-office-retail zone.

Oops!

The P&Z board at that time had cited a Nov. 12, 2003, letter from Dye to Mayor SueLynn which outlined the city's requirement that residential lots had to be a minimum of 7,500 square feet, while the Island Marine lots only measured 52.5 feet by 110 feet. The board had indicated Hoose could build 3.8 residential units, but not the five he wanted.

Dye at that time said the lots were too small for a residence, but could be used commercially. He also said they "appear eligible for a variance procedure."

While Hoose took his variance application to the P&Z, he declined to pursue the issue before the city commission after the 4-1 P&Z vote recommending denial.

But Rudacille cited a section of the city code which has a subsection stating that "building lots platted and accepted by the city, which lots may be somewhat smaller than specifications established by this chapter, are approved for R-1 construction providing other regulations of the R-1 areas are complied with." The subsection only ruled out some lots in the Shore Acres subdivision. The Island Marine lots are in the Anna Maria Beach subdivision.

Double Oops!

Dye responded after reviewing the subsection that if the city has "accepted" the lots, even though they are non-conforming, then "my view is that the platted lots within the R-1 and R-2 district can be built upon even if they are non-conforming because of size, so long as they are built in accordance with the R-1 regulations."

If three-story homes can be built on each lot, the units still have to meet setback requirements and other criteria in the R-1 district, noted Building Official Kevin Donohue. That's another issue. Rudacille might claim that some of the property is submerged land in Lake LaVista and Martin might be able to use that square footage to meet any setback requirements.

Donovan also said that construction of an individual residence on each of the lots does not require site plan approval, only a building permit. The five lots are not contiguous and are owned separately by Island Marine LLC and Island Deli LLC.

Although Rudacille claimed Martin has a "contract" to purchase the property, no transaction on the five lots in question has been recorded by the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court and no application for a building permit has been filed at city hall.

Rudacille said he would contact Martin for any comment, but as of press deadline, no response had been received.