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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Waterfront Restaurant still an issue

The Anna Maria City Commission met in special session Tuesday night to re-consider the plight of the Waterfront Restaurant.

The commission gave preliminary and final site-plan approval on July 28 to rebuild the fire-damaged restaurant, and on Sept. 23, leased the restaurant enough parking spaces to meet city code requirements.

Owners Jason and Leah Suzor, along with their architect, Gene Aubry, thought construction would begin a few weeks after the parking lease, but that's not been the case.

Aubry said no building permit had been issued as of Tuesday by Building Official Kevin Donohue.

After the first building permit application, Aubry said the city came back with 26 more conditions. Following completion of those items, he said, a number of other conditions were added.

Aubry said he then hired the engineering firm CHP, a company he's used in the past, to do mechanical, electrical and plumbing specifications on a number of major projects he's designed.

"We turned in 26 sheets of drawings for a 2,000-square-foot restaurant, but that's still not enough," he said.

"Enough is enough. We've done everything the city asked and beyond and they keep coming back with more. There isn't a building on this Island that complies with everything the city wants. If we have to comply, then everyone should comply," said an upset Aubry.

He blamed the problem on the new site-plan review procedures passed by the city commission earlier this year following the site plan submission of the Villa Rosa subdivision on South Bay Boulevard.

The first application under the new procedures resulted in a lawsuit against the city and the second application - the Suzor's - is now embroiled in controversy and that could lead to legal action.

"They created this planning process and now it's beyond a nightmare. They don't even know what's going on," an obviously agitated Aubry said.

Donohue said that the site planned submitted by Aubry for a building permit was different than the one presented to the commission, hence the need for commission review. The commission, not the building official, has to approve site plan changes.

He said he'd been trying to help Aubry and the Suzors in every way possible, but he's a building official, not a certified planner.

The Suzors had hoped to be open by Jan. 1, 2005, when they received their parking lease in September.