Story Tools

Date of Issue: June 04, 2008

Homeowner claims neighboring buildings pollute bay

A homeowner in court over Bradenton Beach’s issuance of occupancy certificates for neighboring properties now alleges post-permit changes to the structures are causing pollution of Sarasota Bay.

Ken Lohn made the allegation in letters to both Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, which is responsible for the conservation and management of Sarasota Bay. He also issued statements to the press.

In his correspondence, Lohn alleges that neighboring properties — 502 Bay Drive S. and 109 Fifth St. S. — have been permitted and issued certificates of occupancy by the city, but that the impervious surface of the site is 70 percent and “far exceeds the 40 percent allowed.”

Specifically, Lohn said, the developer built an unpermitted exterior staircase and created a stormwater barrier.

Lohn further alleges that most of the stormwater runoff from the site now is directed to Fifth Street South and then “directly into Sarasota Bay,” sending “thousands of gallons of polluted stormwater” into the water.

The Islander’s calls to SBEP were not returned.

City officials have declined to comment on the matter, noting that it is related to a case in Manatee County Circuit Court.

Earlier this year, Lohn, represented by Sarasota attorney Robert Turffs, challenged the certificates of occupancy issued by the city for 502 Bay Drive S. and 109 Fifth St. S.

A former chair of the city’s board of adjustment, Lohn raised numerous concerns about the neighboring properties — known as Hibiscus I and Hibiscus II. Both are owned by Synovus Banks and were initially developed by Steve Noriega.

The complaint to the BOA contained several basic claims: that the center line in the driveway serving Hibiscus I and Hibiscus II is “much less than 40 feet” from the center line of his driveway; that landscaping timbers were improperly placed into the driveway space; and that construction took place too close to the waterfront and without proper public input.

On Feb. 26, the board of adjustment voted 4-0 to recommend that the city commission dismiss Lohn’s appeal. A conclusion of law report drafted by city attorney Ricinda Perry for the BOA stated that the appeal of the certificates of occupancy was not timely — filed three years late in the case of 502 Bay Drive S. and by more than a week for 109 Fifth St. S. The certificate of occupancy for the Bay Drive property was issued Dec. 30, 2004, and the CO for the Fifth Street property on Dec. 20, 2007. Appeals of COs, under the city’s land-development code, must be filed within 30 days.

Second, since the appeal was filed late, the board of adjustment determined it is without jurisdiction to hear the matter and issue a recommendation.

Turffs responded with the claim that a Jan. 4 letter notifying the city of Lohn’s intention to appeal the CO met the 30-day requirement.

In April, Lohn’s attorney asked the city commission to ask the BOA to review the appeal on its merits so the parties involved could avoid the courthouse, where he had asked a judge to quash the board of adjustment’s dismissal of the appeal.

The commission, however, decided to allow the BOA decision to stand and let the court decide.