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Date of Issue: December 07, 2006

Pier restaurant plans approved in Bradenton Beach

The refrain was nearly the same from residents, business owners and even the city commission: bring back our restaurant at the city pier. Soon.

But about that parking ....

Bradenton Beach city commissioners unanimously approved a major development plan as presented by building official Ed Mc Adam to construct a new 92-seat restaurant at the city pier, at the east end of Bridge Street over Anna Maria Sound. The former restaurant was damaged during Hurricane Frances in 2004 and later demolished.

Commissioners also approved, pending Florida Department of Environmental Protection permits, construction of a dockmaster's office, a bait-tackle-tourist kiosk and rest rooms to the south of the pier parking area, as well as floating docks alongside the pier, also on the south side of the structure.

But it was parking that was on the minds of most of the 60-plus people attending the three-hour public hearing Nov. 29.

Mc Adam said that working out the numbers based on the historic-overlay zoning category in which the pier lies, 19 parking spaces would be needed for the patrons and employees of the pier restaurant. There are 22 parking spaces provided in the plans as offered by architect Tom O'Brien, so the parking needs are met pursuant to the code, he said.

The codes requirements may be met, said businessman Ed Chiles, but the parking needs are still unaddressed in the city.

Chiles, owner of the BeachHouse Restaurant on Gulf Drive in the city, said the "No. 1 problem in Bradenton Beach is parking. I think your sequence is wrong. You need to address the parking before you address the pier.

"I support the work being done and I commend the pier team," he added. "Pier revitalization is necessary and needed, and I support the restaurant coming back to the location. But many property owners are concerned that parking is the biggest problem in Bradenton Beach."

Businessman David Teitelbaum, in a prepared letter read by assistant Dawn Betts, said he also supports plans to replace the restaurant, but questioned a number of elements within the plan.

He said that "concurrency is required for any major development project in order to confirm that the proposed project will be in harmony with the neighborhood. Substantial injury could be incurred to the neighborhood in terms of increased traffic.

"The project doesn't seem to provide adequate ingress and egress," Teitelbaum continued. "The project doesn't seem to provide adequate off-street parking and loading areas. Without adequate parking, the project doesn't seem to be compatible with adjoining development, and could harm the existing, neighboring businesses.

"Should this project be approved, the result could be substantial economic damage, noise, glare and/or odor impacts on adjoining properties," he added.

Teitelbaum developed Old Bridge Village in the historic district  and redeveloped Tortuga Inn and the Tradewinds Resort in Bradenton Beach.

Alan Garrett, a land-use planner who said he was retained by a number of citizens, commended the architectural plans for the pier and out-buildings. However, he said, parking needed to be addressed in the area, and suggested a public-private partnership similar to one he worked on in Siesta Village between merchants there and Sarasota County.

"I'd like to see a parking committee established," he said.

Residents who spoke to the matter urged speed in getting the restaurant and pier again open to the public.

"I urge the city commission to move forward as soon as possible to open the pier," said resident Carl Parks. "There has been a restaurant there since at least the 1970s, when some guy named Bob would cook you a hot dog on a hot plate."

Anna Maria Island Historical Society director Sissy Quinn said she "was concerned from day one about parking and traffic problems."

Resident Eileen Suhre said she assisted in getting the first economic development grants for the city for Bridge Street more than 10 years ago and was proud of the way the city had improved. Things look a little different today, though — with the fencing to keep people off the pier, "it looks like London during World War II," she said. "Can't you open the pier for the fishermen?"

"I've talked to people who have driven here from the center of the state and have been devastated that the pier isn't open," said resident Pat Gentry. "Can't we get the fishing pier open while the restaurant work is going on?"

David Russell, operator of Rotten Ralph's Restaurant in Anna Maria and soon-to-be-operator of the pier restaurant in Bradenton Beach, agreed that there is a parking problem in the city, but did not think it was entirely pier-related. "The pier parking has met all the city requirements," he said.

Former Mayor Connie Drescher said she hoped the city would pursue a "park-and-ride" lot at Coquina Beach, where people could park their cars and then take the Manatee Trolley to Bridge Street and beyond. "Our Island will never have enough parking," she said. "That's just the way it is."

Drift In owner Joe Cuervo concurred with the parking committee concept, as did Sun House Restaurant owner Angela Rodocker.

Mayor John Chappie said he would set up an advisory committee of concerned citizens to address parking. He said he would like to see a six-month time frame for the group to bring conclusions to the city commission, which should address both short-term and long-term solutions.

City commissioners also unanimously approved Southern Cross Contractors of Sarasota to do the pier construction work at a cost of $1,664,710. That bid was the lowest of the three the city received.

Work is expected to begin at the pier by the end of the year, and plans call for the restaurant to be open by next spring.