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Date of Issue: March 01, 2007

Shifting sands in Anna Maria

Anna Maria city commissioners at their Feb. 22 meeting were all set to consider reviewing each of the 11 special event permit applications for wedding events submitted by the Sandbar Restaurant on an individual basis, particularly after Commissioner Duke Miller wondered how a private party could be a special event.

But Commission Chairman John Quam noted that under the special event ordinance, the commission could not limit the number of special event permits to a particular business or enterprise.

"We need to review our special event ordinance," Quam said. "Under our current ordinance, we can't limit special events at a location. I feel these should be approved and we should review the ordinance at our next worksession." He also suggested the commission consider charging a fee for a special event permit.

The Sandbar has submitted a special event permit application for erection of a tent on the beach for 11 weddings it has scheduled in the next five weeks.

Miller questioned why the Sandbar needs a tent if it already has a pavilion to accommodate weddings and parties. He also expressed concern about the number of parking spaces for the restaurant during weddings.

Resident Robin Wall said she thought the pavilion was supposed to replace the need for a tent. She also suggested there is a noise problem with the special events.

Diane Caniff suggested greed was a factor in the Sandbar's numerous applications.

Hold on a minute, said Sandbar owner Ed Chiles. He's not doing anything that the Sandbar hasn't done for the past 40 or 50 years. "We've been doing them for a long time and they are very benign to the Island," he said.

Outdoor weddings and the construction of the tent will occur only on weekends and weekend evenings. There isn't a parking problem because he has use of the old IGA building parking spaces if needed, and he's not trying to violate the noise ordinance. In addition, outdoor weddings are "good business" for the Sandbar, he said, and the community, and he's going to book them whenever he can.

If the weddings are now creating an impact problem for nearby residents, let him know, Chiles added.

Unfortunately, he noted, "There are four or five people I can't please no matter what I do."

Indeed. The law firm of Lobeck and Hanson, representing adjacent property owners William and Barbara Nally, objected to the applications, claiming the commission has no authority to grant a special event permit to the Sandbar.

The commission voted 4-1 to approve the 11 permits, with Miller voting against the measure. Commissioners did agree, however, to examine the ordinance at their March worksession to determine if any changes are needed.

Mayor Fran Barford agreed with the commission's decision to discuss the ordinance. There will be more applications from the Sandbar in the future, she observed, and the city administration needs direction from the commission on how these should be handled.