Lakewood Ranch Herald

Manatee County commissioners change rules for 'casitas'

MANATEE -- The Manatee County Commission Thursday approved a request to allow homeowners who want backyard sitting areas called "casitas" to be closer to the rear lot line.

The word "casita," which is a roofed, open structure, translates from Spanish to mean "small house." They're open to the breeze, and sometimes sport amenities like fireplaces and outdoor kitchens.

Under a motion approved Thursday, commissioners changed a setback regulation for casitas from 15 feet from the rear property line to 5 feet; and on a waterfront lot, from 30 to 18 feet, with many stipulations.

One stipulation: The change applies only to housing in part of the Northwest Sector Development of Regional Impact, or DRI, north of State Road 70 and east of Pope Road, according to Caleb Grimes, who represented the builder, Taylor Morrison of Florida, at the land-use meeting at the County Administrative Center.

"They're really, really nice to use," Grimes told the commission. "We use ours virtually every night."

Commissioner Robin DiSabatino argued against the proposal on grounds that such structures, which must be smaller than 200 square feet and less than 15 feet high, might eliminate green space and morph into nasty-looking storage rooms, she said. Other commissioners, however, said their role was not to be the county's "storage police."

The motion that passed included a clause specifying that such structures may not be used for storage. The casita must also be consistent with the architectural style of the home, and be approved by the local homeowners' association, the motion said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.