The Bradenton Times
BRADENTON — Public records are raising questions about whether the county is enforcing its own rules and whether the county’s Land Development Code is being applied equitably by Manatee County Government Officials. The recent approvals of a private street and a separate building permit for local developer Carlos Beruff’s residential property contained glaring conflicts with county requirements.
When most people think of Carlos Beruff and development, they most likely think of Medallion Home or the large-scale development along Bradenton’s El Conquistador Parkway known as Aqua by the Bay. But in recent months, Beruff’s private property received two development-related approvals from the Manatee County government, one approval for the designation of a private street for his personal residential property and the other the issuance of a building permit to construct an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU).
The private street approval appears to have completely circumvented set procedures and requirements, while the building permit for the ADU was issued for the construction of a structure that will be more than 3x the permissible size, according to the county’s Land Development Code. Other code discrepancies were noted by The Bradenton Times within both approvals.
Beruff’s private street
According to public records, in July 2023, Margo Holeman submitted a construction plan application to the county’s Department of Development Services. The application sought the approval of the designation of a private street for the personal residential property of Beruff.
Despite the application being submitted as a “planning application” with something that appeared similar to a construction plan, it lacked the sort of plans one might expect would accompany such an application. The applicant was not seeking the approval to construct anything at all, rather, the planning application only sought the county’s approval to designate roughly 320 ft of Beruff’s 23.3-acre property—specifically the entrance to his property—as a “private street.” In addition, the applicant requested that upon approval, the street would thereafter be known as, “Hammock Bay Loop.”
The county’s Land Development Code (LDC) describes a private street application process and the Manatee County Department of Public Work’s Standards Manual details the requirements for the approval of a private street.
According to the LDC’s Section 1001.4, “Street Design Standards,” an applicant must provide the required documents and other assurances to the county before a request for the designation of a private street can be approved.
A portion of Section 1001.4 A(1) of the LDC includes that before approval of a private street,“…An organization shall be created or designated by covenants running with the land and shall outline the responsibilities for perpetual maintenance and improvements to said private street. The documents shall be filed for public record with the Clerk of the Circuit Court.”
According to Part 3 of the Public Works Standards Manual, “Highway and Traffic Standards,” requirements for the approval of a private street include that “the establishment of any new private street requires that a subdivision plat be approved” and that any requests for modification of any of the requirements listed in the general requirements section may “only be granted in conjunction with a subdivision or planned development.”
Before Beruff purchased the land that is now the location of his more than 15,000-square-foot private residence—more than 10,000 square feet of which is “under air”—the land existed as two legal parcels. A previous owner requested and received approval for a zoning change and, along with the commission’s approval to change the property to Planned Development Residental (PD-R), a preliminary site plan for developing ten residential homes was also approved. However, the previous owner never followed through on their vision for the property, and the approved preliminary plan expired without a final site plan ever being submitted.
According to public records, the property is held today under the River Property Land Trust—the trust is one of three owners listed on the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s website. The additional land owners are listed as Beruff and Holeman, with the owner type being that of “possessory interest; trustee; under trust.” Also noted on the property card, the 23.3 acres of land currently exist as one parcel.
When Holeman submitted the planning application for the designation of a private street, a site plan or subdivision plat was not included with the application. The application was assigned project number PDR-06-66, the same number associated with the rezoning application and expired preliminary site plan approved under the previous property owner in 2010.
From the county’s Public Works Standards Manual, Section 3.1.3, A. Intent. “…to provide requirements and general standards for all private streets and to ensure that the adequate ingress, egress, emergency vehicle access, property maintenance of streets, inspection, and the protection of public safety, health and welfare is provided to the general public.”
Part B(1) of Section 3.1.3 establishes that “private streets are allowed in any planned development zoning district if approved as part of the planned development approval process…”
Part B(4) of the manual’s 3.1.3 details the documents that must be submitted as a condition of a private street approval, including an affidavit and agreement between the owner and the county, which the Department of Public Works has approved. Not only must an affidavit and agreement be approved, but both records must also be submitted and recorded with the Clerk of the Circuit Court.
Neither a search of official records on the Clerk of Court’s website nor the submission of a public records request to the office returned the recorded documents despite the Land Development Code and the Public Works Standards requiring they be recorded with the clerk before the Public Works “Director or designee” could approve the private street.
The county’s online services portal, Accela, reveals additional details about the planning application. Beruff’s wife, Janelle Beruff of B Squared Engineering, is listed as the project’s engineer. The image below displays the construction plan prepared by B Squared Engineering and submitted with the application.
Records also show that Development Services Deputy Director Denise Greer completed the development review of the application and that the plans were approved in November. The development review notes appear to acknowledge that the private street is that of a private residence and not a planned development or platted parcel.
“Stop sign R1-1 (30″ x 30″) must be located 10 ft off of Lyntnor Rd edge of pavement. Since this road is for a single residence no stop bar is going to be required at this time but if the parcel is platted to include more lots then additional requirements may be required,” states the development review.
The review also provides instructions on who the applicant should contact at the county for “approval of the street name signage prior to installation of the street signs.”
According to the appraiser’s website, three addresses are assigned to Beruff’s residential property. Each address carries the “Hammock Bay Loop” street name, and while two of the addresses share the same house number, one includes “Unit 101” as part of its address.
The property appraiser describes Beruff’s single parcel as having “two or more houses,” “two living units,” and as having “two residential units.” The aerial map feature shows the property’s main house (residential dwelling number one), a pool and 2,384 square foot bathhouse (counted as a feature of the main house), and a detached four-car garage with an attached guest house (dwelling number two).
The county’s LDC, Section 401.3, “Bulk and Dimensional Regulations,” includes in its Part A, “No more than one (1) single-family dwelling unit shall hereafter be erected on any one (1) single-family lot, nor shall a dwelling unit be located on the same lot with any principal building, unless such dwelling unit is permitted as an accessory use to such principal building. Detached residential units on one (1) parcel and under common ownership shall be considered multi-family. All standards of the appropriate multi-family or planned development zoning district and future land use category shall be met.”
In Dec. 2023, a permit application was submitted to the Department of Development Services to construct a 5,844-square-foot ADU—3,166 square feet under air conditioning—on Beruff’s private property. According to the permit application details, the ADU is to be built with two stories, having one bedroom, and 2.5 bathrooms.
The county’s LDC, Section 511.18 Accessory Dwelling Units, provides the criteria and development standards that the county shall use to evaluate a proposed accessory dwelling unit.
Included in the development standards are the maximum allowances for floor area size of ADUs according to the designated zoning of the parcel proposed for construction. A table included in the LDC notes that an ADU proposed to be constructed in a PD zoning district may not exceed 750 square feet.
The application’s processing details available through the county’s online services portal show that the zoning review for Beruff’s permit application was assigned to Development Services Planning and Zoning Division Manager Robert Wenzel. The final zoning approval, however, was issued by Development Services Department Director Nicole Knapp. It is unusual for the employee who was assigned to the review task not to have also approved that task’s final review.
In the permit application’s processing details, a comment was added by the supervisor of permitting on Jan. 9, “This record is pending issuance from the addressing ad-hoc to be complete. Once the address is corrected the permit will be issued.”
On Jan.12, an employee only identified in the records as “VW” also added a comment, “The address for this Accessory Dwelling Unit is #### Hammock Bay Loop Unit 101.”
Despite the LDC’s criteria and standards for constructing an ADU conflicting with the specifics included in the permit application, Beruff was issued the permit on Jan. 12, just one month after the permit application was submitted.
No comment from the county
Having reviewed both of the applications related to Beruff’s property, TBT attempted to reach the county for comment on either approval.
On Wednesday, a request for comment on the ADU permit approval was emailed to Development Services Director Knapp and County Administrator Charlie Bishop. Responding to our emailed request the following morning, Knapp replied by directing us to submit a public records request and then pasting the link to the online public record portal.
TBT made one more attempt to clarify that our request was for comment on the ADU permit, but no one responded to our follow-up email.
No one responded to our request.
TBT has also submitted public record requests to the county’s Record Management Division to produce email communications between staff or administrative officials related to either of the applications, the reviews, and approvals. The requests may require some time to process, but TBT will continue to follow this story and will update our readers as we learn more.
Dawn Kitterman is a staff reporter and investigative journalist for The Bradenton Times covering local government news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in The Bradenton Times. To read the original version, click here.
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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