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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Sandbar site plan continued

After more than three hours of debate, discussion, argument, accusations, objections and occasionally some actual information on the proposed Sandbar restaurant site plan at its Feb. 7 meeting, the Anna Maria planning and zoning board decided it needed the opinion of a professional planner on the merits of the application before it could render a decision. The meeting was continued to March 21 to enable a professional review of the application.

Attorney Mike Gallaher, representing an adjacent property owner with some objections to the plan, said he was "astounded" that the city did not have a planner from the start of the application process to review the site plan for adherence to the city's comprehensive plan and land development codes.

"It's shocking," said Gallaher.

Outgoing P&Z board chairman Charles Canniff agreed. The board and city previously decided to proceed with the application without benefit of a planner's review and Canniff said he regretted that decision 10 minutes into the very first meeting on the Sandbar's problems some months ago.

Professional planner Alan Garrett, the former planner for Sarasota County, has been retained by the city to review the Anna Maria Island Community Center site plan, pending approval of his contract by the city commission Feb. 10. Garrett will now also examine the Sandbar site plan.

A number of objections were raised by opponents of the plan to the Sandbar's proposal for an outdoor pavilion for special events such as weddings.

Canniff raised the point that in his opinion, the city's definition of a restaurant still prohibits outdoor dining. He chastised Anna Maria elected officials who have known about the ambiguity in the ordinance for several months, but have taken no correvtive action.

"I don't appreciate this," said Canniff, as commission inaction has put the board in the middle of upholding a code that should have been changed and affects nearly all restaurants in the city.

"I don't want to be confrontational," he added, "but we are stuck with the code" as it stands now. "This should already have been answered by the city government."

He suggested that if city elected officials were listening, they take immediate action on the outdoor dining problem.

Sandbar owner Ed Chiles said he would eliminate the proposed pavilion from the site plan and just keep the tent the restaurant now uses for such events.

With Canniff's resignation effective Feb. 9, vice chairman Chris Collins will chair future P&Z meetings.