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Date of Issue: July 30, 2008

Dining measure doesn't completely satisfy

EstellaFreeman left the Holmes Beach City Commission meeting like a diner not quite satisfied with her meal.

At the request of Freeman via City Commissioner David Zaccagnino, the commission embarked on an update of the city’s outdoor dining ordinance in February. On July 22, the commission held the first reading of a revised outdoor dining ordinance. The vote to approve was 3-1, with Commissioners Pat Morton, John Monetti and Sandy Haas-Martens voting yes and Zaccagnino voting no. Commissioner Pat Geyer was absent, on the mend following surgery earlier this summer.

Zaccagnino voted no and Freeman, co-owner of Skinny’s Place on Gulf Drive, left city hall unsatisfied because the new ordinance may not help Skinny’s expand its outdoor seating.

The restaurant, a grandfathered commercial operation on property zoned residential, is classified as a legal non-conforming use in the city.

Thus, Skinny’s must either seek a zoning change to commercial or take its expanded outdoor dining plans to the Holmes Beach Board of Adjustment.

Both Zaccagnino and Freeman had hoped the city’s plan for allowing an expansion of outdoor dining could have been simpler - increasing the allotted eight seats for each restaurant to 12 seats, 16 seats or more.

“Eight was a magic number,” Zaccagnino said. “Why didn’t we just go to a magic 20 or a magic 15?”

Noting that the Beach Bistro’s operation also is classified as a legally non-conforming use, the commissioner said, “Basically … these two restaurants could be out of the loop if the BOA turns them down.… Isn’t there some other vehicle?”

“We’re worried we might get stuck at the board of adjustment,” Freeman said. “We might possibly be stuck there and we’ve been the main ones wanting this. For us, that’s a real big problem in the ordinance.”

Haas-Martens replied, “The board of adjustment is the proper procedure for anything that is grandfathered in.”

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said Freeman could consider seeking a zoning change, which could eliminate the restaurant’s non-conforming status.

Bohnenberger added, “I don’t think it is proper to hold up passage of this ordinance because we have an issue with one property. We can always revisit that.”

The ordinance, scheduled for a final reading Aug. 12, would allow restaurants to expand outdoor dining - allowed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends - provided certain requirements are met.

Specifically, the ordinance would require:

  • Applications be made to the mayor, or the mayor’s designee, likely city staff.
  • Applications be accompanied by an authorization from the property owner.
  • Applications contain a site plan that includes “the proposed location of the outdoor dining area, showing dimensions, ingress/egress access, exits and the proposed number of outdoor seats and tables.”
  • Applications include a description of existing inside seats and tables and permitted parking spaces.
  • Applications include an explanation of how the outdoor dining area will complement the existing building and not create the need for additional parking spaces.
  • Applications also be approved by the West Manatee Fire Rescue District.

The proposed ordinance states that “parking must be addressed” as an issue, that no food preparation take place in the outdoor dining area, that outdoor seats cannot be moved indoors and that outdoor seats not encroach on rights of way and not “interfere with on-site vehicular and pedestrian circulation, parking and loading areas.”

The commission on July 12 also approved amending the comprehensive plan to include a public schools element, a new requirement from the state.

The inclusion of the public schools element in the plan is required under the city’s interlocal agreement with Manatee County, the school board and other municipalities.

The element identifies a number of goals and objectives, the foremost being to “maintain coordination and cooperation between the school board of Manatee County and participating local governments” in regards to emergency planning, concurrency and capacity issues.

In other business, commissioners discussed:

  • A proposed franchise agreement with TECO/Peoples Gas, which is installing a natural gas line to the Island, beginning in Bradenton Beach.
  • An early draft of the city’s 2008-09 budget, which will begin Oct. 1.
  • A proposed resolution to allow Waste Management Inc. refuse collectors to begin pickups at 6 a.m. rather than 7 a.m. if needed during the 45-day closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge in September.

The next commission meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12, with the outdoor dining, Waste Management and TECO Peoples Gas matters again on the agenda.