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Date of Issue: May 17, 2007

Sandbar's party tent needs site plan amendment

Some veteran Island political observers might find it hard to believe, but the Anna Maria City Commission May 10 unanimously agreed on one issue regarding the Sandbar Restaurant.

The restaurant needs to file a site plan amendment if it wants to continue to hold outdoor weddings and celebrations in a tent when the permanent pavilion on the property is already in use.

For the past two months, commissioners had been discussing possible changes to the special event permit ordinance, changes that might have relegated the Sandbar to just six outdoor weddings utilizing a tent in one calendar year.

But Mayor Fran Barford summed up the general discussion of changing the special event ordinance by laying the cards on the table.

"What's triggering the problem are the Sandbar weddings in an outdoor tent. That's the bottom line."

The restaurant needs to "do a site plan amendment and address the impact" of the tent weddings, she said.

If the commission takes the Sandbar out of the special event permit process, there's no need to make anything but cosmetic changes to the ordinance, she suggested.

Commissioners and city planner Alan Garrett agreed.

In his opinion, if the Sandbar has outdoor dining associated with these tent weddings, "they need a site plan review amendment. They need to come in and apply."

Garrett does not believe the tent weddings fall under the special event permit process, but because there are so many of these, they are now a "function of the restaurant."

And any increase in outdoor dining requires a site plan amendment, he concluded.

Commissioner Duke Miller, who at one time had lobbied for a maximum number of special event permits issued to an establishment in one year, agreed that a site plan amendment is what the Sandbar and owner Ed Chiles need to comply with the city's ordinances.

"I'm all for it. We need [Chiles] to amend his site plan to meet Anna Maria codes."

Barford said she would discuss the issue with Chiles, but noted that until a site plan amendment is submitted, the city will continue to accept special event permit applications from the Sandbar for these type events.

The restaurant has scheduled 18 outdoor weddings utilizing a tent between July 1 and Dec. 31, Barford said.

The site plan amendment does not apply to weddings held in the restaurant's permanent pavilion. Those functions do not require a special event permit.