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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Parking lot proposal gets nod by planners

A proposed parking lot in Bradenton Beach will received the go-ahead by city planners and will come before the city commission May 6.

Agent Charlie Ugarte, representing owners George Marinos and Wendy Kokolis, received the blessing of the city planning and zoning board last week for a special exception for a 31-space parking lot on Ninth Street North, east of Gulf Drive. The area, approximately one-third of an acre, is zoned Commercial, and historically was used as a parking lot for the defunct Trader Jack's restaurant.

The parking lot will be used by patrons of Gulf Drive Cafe, 900 Gulf Drive N.

Planners unanimously approved the special-exception request but pegged a stipulation and posed a number of comments on the project, which Ugarte said had a cost approaching $40,000.

The stipulation calls for an additional 1-foot be set aside to augment the existing 4-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side of Gulf Drive.

The comments were more detailed and biting, especially regarding the city's current lack of a planner, building official and code enforcement officer.

"All members present agreed that their recommendation for approval was made without benefit of advice and direction from a city building official or a city planner," the letter to the commission from Bob Dale, planning and zoning board chair, states.

"We feel that reviewing projects without the experience and knowledge of those two key city staff people puts the planning and zoning board at risk of not having all information necessary to make recommendations to the city commission," the letter continued.

"Although the Holmes Beach Building Department staff is to be commended for the services they are providing us, they cannot be expected to have the same level of knowledge and responsibility as would our own in-house building official.

"We strongly urge you to fill the vacant position of the building official with a permanent employee."

Planners also said their recommendation was taken as a part, not the whole, of the issue of parking at the cafe - "in isolation" was the phrase used by Dale in his letter and by Planning and Zoning Board member Rick Bisio in his motion.

"We have not reviewed the total number of spaces available for restaurant usage and do not represent that this recommendation will solve the pending 'parking versus seating' issues for the restaurant," the letter continued.

Lighting for the lot, which meets the city code, may not be in accord with new state or federal guidelines for lights within a turtle nesting area, the planning recommendation letter added.

City commissioners terminated the employment of City Planner Bill Brisson last November. Building Official Bob Welch tendered his resignation in January, and Code Enforcement Officer Dawn Betts offered her letter of resignation in mid-February.

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