Holmes Beach city planner Bill Brisson presented a draft ordinance to commissioners at a May 30 work session that tightens parking requirements for new restaurants.
Commissioners previously provided a consensus to change the parking ordinance from one-parking-space-per-five indoor seats to one-space-per-three indoor seats for any new restaurants in Holmes Beach.
The change reverts the ordinance back to language before it was changed in 2010 by a previous commission to create a more business-friendly environment.
The proposed changes will only apply to restaurants and assembly hall-type structures.
Brisson said the draft ordinance he presented contained only the changes the commissioners wanted.
Commissioners discussed in length how the ordinance would apply to outdoor dining. Currently, there are no limits placed on parking for outdoor seating. Commissioners Marvin Grossman and Judy Titsworth expressed a desire to have that changed.
Brisson said he could add language to the ordinance, but it would then have to go before the planning commission because it would be a change to the land development code.
Brisson suggested commissioners address outdoor dining when the commission updates the LDC.
“When you update the LDC, there are a lot of gaps in the code and it has been that way for years,” he said. “You need a more expansive use of listings and parking requirements. Right now, you have to rely on the fire marshal to determine maximum capacity.”
Grossman suggested the new language state outdoor dining areas may have eight seats without parking requirements.
“Anything after that would have to adhere to the same requirements as indoor dining we are proposing, which would be one parking space for every three seats.”
Brisson said he would need a consensus. Commissioners agreed to the proposed language, except for Commissioner David Zaccagnino, who has opposed changes to the parking requirements.
Commissioners have sought changes to help alleviate parking problems, but Zaccagnino said the changes would only make it more difficult for local restaurants. He said it would do nothing to alleviate the city’s problems.
Commissioners also agreed to send the ordinance with the proposed changes to the planning commission without reviewing them.
HB tightening parking requirements for new restaurants
Holmes Beach resident Terry Parker called a May 14 Holmes Beach Commission move to tighten parking requirements for new restaurants “cherry picking.”
Commissioners voted 5-0 to require new restaurants and assembly halls to have one parking space per three seats, a throwback to the city’s previous parking ordinance, which was changed in 2010 to one parking space per five seats.
Retail, offices and other businesses were excluded from the motion, which targeted only restaurants and assembly-hall type structures, such as churches and conference halls.
Commissioners felt comfortable that no new churches were planned on the island, but wanted to prevent a scenario like the proposed Mainsail project that included space for conference rooms and functions.
However, the primary focal point of the May 14 lengthy discussion was restaurants.
Commissioner Judy Titsworth, at a prior work session, asked the commission to direct city planner Bill Brisson to conduct a study to assess parking in the city.
Brisson said May 14 that he could conduct such a study, but that it would be “expensive and time-consuming and would not likely solve anything.”
Titsworth asked for the study because she believes ample parking was once a symbol of pride for Holmes Beach.
“I just want to make sure this commission is OK with the changes made by the previous commission,” she said. “I understand why they were changed, but I don’t want to become a Pine Avenue in Anna Maria or Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, where people are fighting for parking.”
Brisson said a previous commission changed parking requirements because businesses were having problems operating and the city was having difficulty attracting new businesses.
Brisson said if he did do the study, “What are we going to do about it? You won’t be able to improve anything.”
Commissioner David Zaccagnino, a member of the commission for eight years, said the change was made due to the economic collapse and ensuing recession.
“We had a lot of businesses folding up and leaving the island,” he said. “We were concerned about losing businesses and wanted to do something to be more business friendly.”
Commissioner Pat Morton also served during those discussions, and said the decision “came back to bite us. We got an overabundance of restaurants that came into a small area. We used to have mom-and-pop places. Now we have mega places.”
Zaccagnino said it was a good decision.
“Back in the old days, all we had is a couple of burger joints,” he said. “Now we have some very successful restaurants and an emergence of a culinary reputation for fabulous restaurants. I can’t say that’s a bad thing.”
Titsworth questioned whether the current parking requirements are going to make matters worse.
“I’m wondering if we are dealing with parking issues because of a lack of enforcement,” she said. “It’s quite obvious there was a lack of enforcement on a number of codes. Or are we feeling these pains because we softened our requirements? Are we comfortable with what we have now?”
Commissioner Marvin Grossman said the 2012-13 tourist season was a sign of things to come.
“When we get into the peak time, we are full,” he said. “What I’m trying to say is that peak times are a sign of what is going to happen because we don’t have the lull like we used to. We need to prevent it from getting worse. This is our city. We have a lifestyle choice to make.”
Grossman said the choice came down to taking action for tourists or for residents.
“‘Business-friendly’ is a nice term, but what about ‘citizen-friendly’? I believe I was elected to be concerned about our citizens and their lifestyles,” he said.
Zaccagnino said he was not opposed to going back to a one-space-per-three-seat rule, but the “problem is that we have finite space. We are a small town and very popular. You can limit spaces, but people are still going to come. It’s still going to be full.”
Zaccagnino agreed that, sooner rather than later, there will be no differentiating tourist season from offseason.
“We used to have an offseason, where businesses would actually close from September through October,” he said. “We don’t have an offseason anymore. It doesn’t matter if you change the ordinance, it’s still going to be full. We need to find other solutions, like valet parking.”
Titsworth agreed with Grossman, citing concern for the city’s future with today’s policies. She also questioned the validity of valet parking.
Titsworth also said the city’s policy of requiring no parking spaces for outdoor seating isn’t working.
Brisson disagreed, but acknowledged some restaurants have exploited the policy.
“Real outdoor dining is on sidewalks, not half the size of this auditorium,” he said. “Those (restaurants taking advantage of the policy) should be looked at to change it in the fashion of regular dining.”
Mayor Carmel Monti asked what rights the city has in preventing more restaurants.
City attorney Patricia Petruff said that would be difficult.
“Your commercial districts say restaurants are permitted,” she said. “To deny a restaurant would be very difficult, but you can force them to get very creative in their site plan with parking restrictions.”
Zaccagnino reiterated that he didn’t have a problem voting to change the parking requirements for new restaurants, “but it won’t solve the problem. We have to rely on (Brisson) to look at more creative ways to ease traffic.”
Monti said limiting traffic was the key.
“We have to limit the number of cars coming onto the island,” he said. “We need more means to get people to the island, but not their cars.”
The Manatee County Tourist Development Council and other county agencies are looking into that solution, including ideas such as developing water taxi services from the mainland to the island, according to previous TDC discussions.
Monti and Zaccagnino recommended the city form a committee to include Police Chief Bill Tokajer to look at what the city can do to keep traffic flowing.
The motion to restrict parking requirements for new restaurants will not apply to existing restaurants, nor does it apply to new businesses other than restaurants or assembly-hall type structures.
Petruff said it would take about a month to officially adopt the ordinance change.