All quiet on the Anna Maria waterfront
It's been a "long and painful process," said Waterfront Restaurant owner Jason Suzor after the Anna Maria City Commission Dec. 14 approved site-plan changes that will allow him to begin rebuilding his fire-damaged restaurant - nine months after the fire.
Suzor had received preliminary site plan approval in July to rebuild the popular eatery damaged by an arson fire in March, and planned to re-open this month, but could not get a building permit until the commission approved the changes.
Those changes include a new interior seating plan that will not change the number of seats at the restaurant, just the layout of tables and chairs; a fire hydrant required by the West Manatee Fire and Rescue; a fire sprinkler system; and relocation of the grease trap and exterior lighting for parking. The commission approved the final site plan subject to satisfactory completion of those changes and the addition of some stormwater drainage improvements.
The commission verified that all other conditions of the preliminary approval had been met.
While thanking the commission for approval, Suzor said he had to note that he never felt the sense of community help that would show the city was behind his efforts.
Suzor said he and his wife had to first go before the planning and zoning board to get approval before coming to the commission, and the P&Z board "looked at us like we were aliens from Mars."
Nine months after the fire closed his business, "I'm still staring at an empty lot. I lost my restaurant, my business, my life. It's been a tough time."
Instead of focusing on helping him rebuild, the city got mixed up in codes, ordinances and review procedures, he said.
Suzor and his architect, Gene Aubry, first had to appear before the P&Z board for approval, then twice before the city commission for preliminary site plan approval, then two more meetings with the commission to iron out a lease for parking spaces that would allow him to comply with the city code for parking requirements at a restaurant.
"The process has been painful and expensive," concluded Suzor.