Sandbar site plan approved — finally — despite objections

For Anna Maria residents who regularly attend city commission meetings, it might seem like a Sandbar Restaurant site plan has been an agenda item for years.

That’s not far from the truth. The first site plan to solve some of the drainage and parking issues at the restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., was presented and approved in 2005 following a number of public meetings.

At the Feb. 27 commission meeting, commissioners voted 3-1 to approve an amended Sandbar site plan that is somewhat related to the 2005 site plan. The amended plan calls for use of the vacant property at the southeast corner of Gulf Drive and Spring Avenue as an overflow parking lot for the restaurant.

Commissioners, however, stipulated the vacant lot could only be used for employee or valet parking. Entrance to the lot will be limited to Gulf Drive, and vehicles must exit by a right turn on Spring Avenue.

Engineer Lynn Burnett noted the site plan calls for a pedestrian crosswalk over a drainage swale, and the Sandbar has agreed to maintain the crosswalk and drainage system.

Incorporation of the parking lot was recently added to the site plan, she said. The Sandbar has “no intention at this time” of using the lot for parking, she said. It would be used only in the event other parking lot leases expire, Burnett noted.

Commissioners added a stipulation that the proposed parking lot would have parking spaces that comply with the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.

The commissioners heard from representatives of William and Barbara Nally, owners of a vacation rental on Spring Avenue adjoining the Sandbar Restaurant.

The Nallys, who have a history of challenges related to the Sandbar and Pine Avenue Restoration LLC, brought their land planner, Jan Norsoph of St. Petersburg, to the meeting.

Norsoph said the site plan does not comply with city codes and raises concerns about safety and noise for the Nallys.

Following Norsoph, landscape and stormwater drainage expert Bruce MacArthur addressed the commission, saying he was hired by the Nallys to examine the stormwater runoff the new plans would produce.

MacArthur said the plan provides little relief from flooding for residents in the area, and should be amended to improve drainage.

Attorney Dan Lobeck, representing the Nallys, said to compare what is proposed for drainage with what is at the Sandbar now would require a very aggressive maintenance program or flooding will worsen.

“This is a flawed maintenance plan,” Lobeck said. “If it fails, flooding gets worse. Also, have respect for the residents.”

He said there would be added noise and lighting problems for guests at the Nally house.

That brought up resident Mike Coleman, an associate of Sandbar owner Ed Chiles in PAR.

Coleman said he had read the 1983 minutes of the commission meeting that allowed the Nallys to build a residence in a commercial district.

“They were told then they would have to bear the noise and traffic created by commerce in the district. This is like the person who buys a house at the end of a runway, then complains about the airplane noise,” Coleman said.

When Lobeck attempted to question Coleman, city attorney Jim Dye halted Lobeck. He said Coleman was not an expert witness and cross-examination is limited to “competent, substantial testimony.”

Former City Commissioner Carol Ann Magill also objected to the site plan. She said the city is prohibited by code from vacating beach accesses as indicated in the site plan.

Burnett, however, noted the beach access is not being vacated, just shifted a few feet.

She also said the Sandbar plans a landscape buffer between the restaurant parking lot and the Nally house, and has configured the alleyway by the Nally house to prohibit exiting vehicles from passing the residence.

Vice Chair Nancy Yetter, acting in place of Chair Chuck Webb, who was absent, called for a motion, but Commissioner Dale Woodland said MacArthur’s study was only presented that day and he needed time to study it before making a decision.

He added that the city should research Magill’s claim that a beach access has been vacated before voting on the site plan.

Other commissioners, however, were ready to vote after numerous hearings on the site plan.

Commissioner Doug Copeland moved to accept the site plan with the noted stipulations. Commissioner Carol Carter seconded the motion. The site plan passed 3-1, with Woodland dissenting.

In other matters, commissioners approved a landscaping ordinance for new construction. The ordinance requires a permit to remove native trees and vegetation, and requires replacement with similar native species.

Commissioners also passed an ordinance requiring developers to submit a construction staging plan. The plan would show the building department the step-by-step process needed to build a project.

The commission also approved Mayor SueLynn’s appointment of Jack Brennan to the vacancy on the planning and zoning board left by the retirement of longtime member Tom Turner.


Special meeting called on A-frame signs after press time

Following complaints at the Anna Maria Feb. 27 commission meeting from a number of business owners about loss of their A-frame signs due to the recently passed signage ordinance, commissioners scheduled a special meeting on the topic for 6 p.m. Monday, March 3, at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

Some business owners, including Laura Shely of Tide and Moon Jewelry on Pine Avenue, claim their signs, previously permitted by the city, should have been grandfathered for use.

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