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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Chiles tries again, but efforts on hold
Future Sandbar This artist's rendering of the proposed changes at the Sandbar restaurant, including the addition of required handicap parking and access and handicap accessible rest rooms, plus drainage, landscaping and sidewalk improvements to the surrounding area, was presented to the Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board Dec. 20.

More than 11 years after first being denied a variance - and several requests since - Sandbar restaurant owner Ed Chiles will have to wait a little longer before learning if his request to swap alleyways with the city to allow him to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act is successful.

After hearing more than two hours of testimony Dec. 20 on the proposed vacation and accompanying preliminary site plan, the Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board Dec. 20 agreed to continue the hearing until Jan. 17 in order for Chiles to obtain updated confirmations from the various utility companies that they have no issues with the site plan.

The vacation request - essentially a swap of the existing city alley with property owned by Chiles that he will dedicate as an alley to the city - is needed before the site plan can be approved.

Chiles needs to build six handicap parking spaces alongside the main restaurant building, provide a paved walkway for handicap access, and upgrade the restrooms to meet ADA requirements, but he can't do that because any construction would encroach onto city property. The restaurant already extends two feet into the alleyway - and has for many years.

Chiles was sued last year over failure to comply with the ADA, but reached an agreement in September 2004 with the litigants that gives him one year to meet ADA standards for parking, restrooms and access.

Chiles' problem is that he can't build into the city-owned alley to meet the ADA requirements without the vacation. Both Chiles and apparently the city - through various building permits issued the restaurant from 1979 to 1993 - believed up until that year that the alleyway had already been vacated.

Chiles has already spent $29,000 in engineering fees and site-plan design work and agreed that if the city swaps the alleyways, he'll pay to build the walkway through the city property to reach his restaurant and the beach, maintain the walkway, build drainage swales around the parking lot, and continue to allow the visitors to the beach to use the Sandbar parking lot and the restrooms and showers at the office building in the parking lot.

Attorney Ricinda Perry, representing Chiles, said the vacation request complies with all four requirements the city needs to vacate the property, and the city would be gaining a usable alleyway instead of keeping the currently unusable alley that would be vacated.

While a number of city residents spoke in favor of the vacation and site plan, some board members were concerned that the city would be losing value because the current alleyway is along the Gulf and more valuable than the proposed alleyway, which would be about 75 feet farther west.

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