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Date of Issue: February 13, 2008

'Anonymous' complaints about Sandbar spark city interest

Sandbar Restaurant owner Ed Chiles may have spent the past three years dealing with Anna Maria staff, city commissioners and planning and zoning board members about a site-plan for the restaurant, but he’s still got some more ground to cover regarding the plan and his restaurant.

In fact, two anonymous complaints about the restaurant to code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon along with some issues with the approved site-plan prompted her and city planner Alan Garrett to write Chiles a letter Feb. 6 outlining some “issues” at the establishment.

Rathvon’s code complaints might not be serious in other jurisdictions, but this is Anna Maria.

The first complaint is that Chiles has two extra landscape lights on the east side of the alleyway that runs north and south by the restaurant and these lights are blocking some of the required 10-foot wide access to the beach.

In addition, said the complainer, Chiles has a “big potted plant” and a light on the south side of the east-west alley that are blocking a portion of the alley.

Further, read the complaint, Chiles has to find a way to maintain the water runoff from the outdoor shower at the Sandbar on the west side of the building because the runoff is apparently flooding a city right-of-way. The city suggested that if he can’t control the runoff, he should disconnect the shower.

Efforts to reach Rathvon for comment on the code allegations were unsuccessful.

In addition to the code violations in the Feb. 6 letter, Garrett included several site plan issues that he’d like Chiles to address and solve.

Chief among those are that parts of the pedestrian path do not meet the six-foot width required in the final site-plan and Chiles has added some landscaping near the bathroom building that was “not indicated within the area of internal vehicular circulation” on the final site-plan.

Garrett also indicated that a portion of the outdoor dining deck does not meet the required seven-foot setback from the right-of-way of the pedestrian walkway. He suggested Chiles either amend the final site-plan or remove the offending items.

 Other site-plan issues include the loading area parallel to Spring Avenue and unauthorized parking within the area “designated for internal circulation.”

Garret suggested that he and Chiles meet to discuss possible solutions to all the site-plan problems.

“The city is open and welcomes your input and solutions to the actions,” he said.

Garret said that he observed the site-plan violations during routine inspections of the property for compliance with the site-plan that was approved by the city commission May 25, 2006, after nearly two years of sometimes contentious debate and some serious opposition to the plan from several city residents, including some who live near the restaurant.

Rathvon, however, is a reactive code enforcement officer per city commission policy.

She does not actively patrol the city looking for code violations, and only “reacts” to a potential code problem when someone reports an issue to city hall.

The city commission has consistently backed a policy that allows code complaints to be made anonymously.

Chiles said he asked for a meeting with Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford, along with Garrett and Rathvon, before the letter was sent to resolve issues that had only been discussed to that point.

“We’ll be happy to take care of the plants, the sidewalk and the deck and anything else that’s a problem,” said Chiles.

Regarding the outdoor shower, he said the city had given him permission to install the shower and restrooms because quite a few beachgoers were utilizing private property along the beach for personal showers or when they needed a bathroom.

But if he can’t get control of the drainage onto city property caused by the shower, then he’ll just have to turn off the shower to the public, Chiles said.