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only to find out [he and his wife] were not able to do that." At Vice Chairwoman Christine Robinson's request, County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh explained that any development has to be consistent with the county's comprehensive plan, "so I think that it is appropriate, really, to focus on the criteria in the ordinance to determine whether or not to grant a variance and, specifically, also, whether it's the mini- mum variance necessary." DeMarsh referenced an earlier comment by Merrill that the lot was platted in 1926, a fac- tor in whether a denial of the variance could be considered a taking. The history of the property would be reasonable to consider, DeMarsh pointed out. "Steve, I don't mean to argue with what you've just said," Patterson told him, "but there are platted lots even seaward of this [regarding which variances have been denied] many times." "I didn't conclude whether it would be a tak- ing or not," DeMarsh replied, referring to a denial of the petition. "I gave you a principle of law to consider." He added that the board should consider the numerous factors related to any lot when asked for a variance to build on it, includ- ing its location seaward of the Gulf Beach Setback Line and its elevation "to determine what the reasonable … expectations of an owner purchasing [it] would be." At another point during his presentation, Merrill directed the board to a section of the county's comprehensive plan that references dune management guidelines. That language indicates commissioners "should discuss preservation but 'encourage public acquisi- tion if preservation is contemplated,'" Merrill said, "so if you are looking to deny this today, then we would contemplate that you are going to be then considering buying this property at some point in the future, and, certainly, my client would entertain that discussion …" Merrill also stressed that the Allens had reduced the size and scope of their plan since they submitted their petition last year. Merrill characterized the changes as "sub- stantial modifications to this [design] in line with what you asked us to do." For example, he said, the structure would be two stories, instead of three, over the ground level and the pool had been eliminated from the design. Additionally, Merrill presented figures show- ing that the house the Allens proposed would be about 2,800 square feet smaller than the average size of homes along the stretch of Beach Road he had referenced earlier. "We believe this is as small as you can go" and still get a reasonable return on the investment, Merrill said. In response to a question from Patterson, Merrill agreed that the two houses to the immediate north of the 162 Beach Road lot have smaller houses on them than the one planned by the Allens. Located at 156 and 152 Beach Road, he said one has 1,783 square feet of habitable space; the other, 1,782 square feet. " S o t h e y ' r e q u i t e a b i t s m a l l e r, " Patterson replied. "Yes," Merrill told her, but he added that they were built before 1979, when the comprehen- sive plan went into effect. Sarasota News Leader April 25, 2014 Page 54

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