Two merchants at the Island Shopping Center last month complained about increased traffic and stress on parking behind their stores on Holmes Boulevard where they face the former Martini Bistro-Fins Bar, now Lobstahs restaurant. The shop owners claim the restaurant lacks needed parking. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
Holmes Beach city commissioners at a work session March 27 considered a ban on Internet cafes, new outdoor dining rules, and a transient housing law — and also instructed their attorney to prepare ordinances on all three for action at a future meeting.
City commissioners first reviewed new restaurant restrictions for outdoor dining, and then a draft ordinance to prevent Internet gambling businesses from opening their doors in Holmes Beach.
Following Commissioner Jean Peelen’s inquiry about what process will deal with recommendations soon to come out of the focus groups appointed in January to explore rental issues, Commission Chair David Zaccagnino introduced yet another ordinance.
Commissioners first discussed a draft ordinance on outdoor dining, which was moved by commission consensus to a regular meeting agenda.
At the beginning of this discussion, it was agreed that eight outdoor dining seats had previously been allowed without commission approval. To this, Petruff remarked, “We took that out years ago. I think there’s a consensus not to put it back in.”
It also was noted that tying the outdoor dining to parking was removed in 2008.
According to Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens, the changes were made because the city “wanted to be a more walking, biking community,” less car dependent because of the increased use of trolleys.
Commissioner Pat Morton, however, expressed concern about parking. “Whenever it stretches out to 35 to 40 (outdoor) seats, for me there’s a parking issue that comes up,” he said.
Zaccagnino said if it’s a safety issue Morton was raising, a new provision in the ordinance the commission was considering allows for a city building official to address this with a “periodic review.”
Under existing rules, outdoor dining requires an initial permit, and subsequent annual permits for the continued outdoor operation on filing a city business tax receipt. A $100 fee is collected by the city for both initial and subsequent permits. Also required is a site plan, which is reviewed by the building department.
Under the proposed ordinance, the $100 renewal fee will be eliminated. But, if there’s an increase in outdoor seating, owners will need to reapply and pay an additional $100.
Restaurant owners with existing city-permitted outdoor dining would be grandfathered, Petruff said, until the business changes ownership or increases seating.
Under the proposed “periodic review,” if a building official should find it necessary to take the matter to the code enforcement board, a restaurant’s outdoor dining permit would not be changed or revoked without notification, advertisement and a public hearing, Petruff said.
And, Petruff said, while the draft ordinance didn’t include a request to add “commission approval” of site plans before permits are granted for new or increased outdoor dining, she would add it to the next draft of the ordinance.
Commissioner John Monetti said that while the review process would not be practical for larger cities, it should work for small cities such as Holmes Beach.
The second ordinance commissioners considered — banning Internet-simulated gambling and related devices — was modeled by Petruff after a Seminole County law that’s been winding its way through the courts.
Most recently the Seminole ordinance was challenged on First Amendment grounds, and a March 21 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Judicial Circuit of Atlanta affirmed a decision denying a preliminary injunction, and allowing the county to enforce its ban.
“A lot of the language is the same” as the Seminole County ordinance, Petruff told commissioners. “We need to watch that particular case.”
Haas-Martens asked whether the ordinance would allow “charitable organizations to do what they do now,” including the “wheel” game, and Petruff said it would.
Zaccagnino inquired whether the proposed ordinance will ban the sale of time on a computer “as a game.”
“It’s hard to say,” Petruff said, adding the ordinance aims to “address anything that looks, smells or acts” like Internet gambling.
Monetti said he favored moving the ordinance onto the commission’s regular meeting “post haste,” and Morton complimented Petruff for a “very good job” on the draft ordinance.
Finally, the commission discussed an ordinance to incorporate the multi-unit, multi-story rental recommendations expected from focus groups by the end of April.
Zaccagnino said he is working with Petruff to draft an ordinance using other communities’ ordinances, including those from Key West and Islamorada, dealing with vacation rentals and transient housing.
Petruff told commissioners, “what would help me” is for commissioners to send her an outline of focus group recommendations. She would then sort through them, include them in her draft, or tell commissioners why “that’s not a good idea.”
“Whatever we do, it must be an ordinance of general applicability citywide,” Petruff said.