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Sarasota County works on relief for Manasota Key beachfront homes

SARASOTA — Homeowners along the coastal beach setback line who need emergency sandbags for protection from erosion may soon be able to apply for a variance that could last for three years, instead of only one.

That’s the direction the Sarasota County Commission moved Tuesday, as the board continued a public hearing on amending the county Coastal Setback Code until April 10.

Ostensibly the hearing was to discuss a staff proposal to allow a three-year permit period with a reduced cost but still require homeowners to annually justify the need for sandbags to protect their homes.

Instead of paying three annual fees of $365, homeowners would pay that sum just once, then a fee of only $50 for the second and third years.

Instead, commissioners directed staff to rework the code so that the initial variance would be for up to three years — subject to annual inspection and possible removal, if the sandbag placement is harming the coastal integrity of neighboring properties or impeding public access to the beach or nesting activities of sea turtles.

The re-examination of the ordinance was prompted last April, during discussion of emergency variances that were granted for several beachfront homeowners on Manasota Key, following the 2016 storm season.