The Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board came to a big conclusion for one Bridge Street establishment.
Six months after hearing several requests from representatives of the Bridgetender Dockside Bar and Restaurant, the P&Z board voted Jan. 10 to recommend approval of the restaurant’s change to a major development and a comprehensive plan amendment to the city commission.
Darenda Marvin, senior land planner with Grimes Goebel Grimes Hawkins Gladfelter & Galvano of Bradenton, represented the Bridge Tender Inn and Dockside Bar, and its owner Fred Bartizal, also a P&Z board member at the quasi-judicial hearing. Marvin asked for an amendment to the future land-use designation for the commercially zoned property operating on Sarasota Bay as the restaurant’s dockside bar, on the east side of Bay Drive South.
Additionally, Marvin petitioned the board to recommend the property be designated as a major development, owing to its increased size.
City land planner Alan Garrett recommended the amendment and the change to a major development.
The previous board had agreed at a hearing in June 2017 that it needed more information, but after losing four members in August, lacked a quorum for meetings. The hearing was continued until the new appointments were made.
Bartizal, a recently appointed member, formally recused himself from the decision-making and declined to take part in the discussion, instead joining the gallery for the Jan. 10 hearing.
Currently, the property’s land-use designation is public semi-public. Marvin said the parcel, which was part of a land swap between the city and Bartizal in 2001, wasn’t reclassified after the swap. She said it should be designated mixed-use bridge commercial, the same as the surrounding properties. It is zoned C2 commercial.
When the parcel on the opposite side of the road was approved for open-air dining in 2012, the city required a unity of title between the two properties.
The unity of title satisfied the requirement that open-air dining be tied to the restaurant on Bridge Street, which also removed parking requirements for the outdoor seats.
According to Marvin, when the area was approved for open-air dining, the operation was small. Since 2012, the restaurant has expanded seating to more than 100 seats.
“Over time we got larger and now we are just trying to get proper approval,” Marvin said. “It’s not appropriate at this stage to ask, ‘Should there be a restaurant here?’ That has already been approved.”
Marvin said the restaurant is licensed by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation for 163 indoor and 109 outdoor seats. She said that as the restaurant uses only 132 indoor seats, they would like to up the outdoor dining area to 120 seats.
In June, board members said they were concerned that the bar and restaurant were intersected by Bay Drive South, requiring employees and patrons to cross the street, which would jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of the public.
Marvin said she has reviewed police reports of incidents at the Bridgetender and none were related to vehicle-pedestrian interaction.
Additionally, Marvin said the restaurant employs “expos,” who wear bright clothing and are trained to run food and drinks between the two locations, as well as a parking attendant, who assists patrons parking along Bay Drive South.
Garrett also pointed out there is a rope-and-bollard system defining the crossing area.
During public comment, former Mayor Bill Shearon said there is heavy pedestrian traffic on Bay Drive South, and bicycle traffic is likely to increase when a planned islandwide path is constructed.
Shearon proposed the restaurant install a sidewalk along Bay Drive South.
“There has not been an accident there, but I fear if this is approved, the city is opening itself up for a real liability issue,” Shearon said.
P&Z vice chair Jim Lynch agreed with Shearon, saying he is unsure that a previous commission intended, in making its approval in 2012, for the outdoor seating area to expand to the extent is has.
Additionally, he said the lot in question does not abut Bridge Street, but only is permitted because of unity of title.
“Did they intend for open-air dining without parking to take place on Bay Drive South?” Lynch asked. “We’re now going down the side streets and I imagine it’s a matter of time before we’re going up the outer rim if all it takes is a unity of title to achieve it.”
Approved with stipulations
Following Garrett’s recommendation, the P&Z unanimously approved the future land-use change from public semi-public to mixed-use bridge commercial.
The second motion, to change the Bridgetender’s designation to a major development, passed 3-2 with stipulations, which were accepted by Marvin on behalf of Bartizal.
Lynch and Andy Mincieli voted “nay.”
The stipulations included compliance with the June 2017 concept plan, storage of outdoor bar and accessories upon notice of a hurricane warning, presence of an on-site parking attendant 5-9 p.m. December-May and submission of permits, plans and surveys to the city engineer for review and coordination with the city’s sea-level rise planning and the master plan for the district.