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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Sandbar denied 'vacation' again

Sandbar restaurant owner Ed Chiles seems to be caught in the middle.

On the one hand, he's being sued to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide suitable and adequate handicap-accessible parking at the Sandbar restaurant on Spring Avenue in Anna Maria.

On the other hand, he needs the city to vacate an alleyway alongside the restaurant so he can expand the rest rooms and create the parking spaces that meet ADA requirements.

Anna Maria's planning and zoning board denied Chiles' vacation request by a 3-1 vote at its Jan. 26 meeting, but members said they were sympathetic to his ADA plight.

Jeff Hostetler of Banks Engineering, who represented WELD Inc. - the corporate owner of the property - presented an option to swap the city the requested alleyway for another on the property.

He said the ADA requires parking spaces with a hard surface next to the restaurant with a paved walkway to an entrance ramp.

But the alleyway the Sandbar needs is adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico while the other is 41 feet east, and some board members thought it wasn't an even swap.

Board member Bob Barlow, however, said he felt the vacation request met all the criteria, and the city has to be sympathetic to business owners providing suitable handicap access.

P&Z chairperson Ellen Trudelle suggested closing the alleyway in question as an alternative, but Hostetler said there would be a setback issue, because the restaurant also has to provide an ADA-compliant bathroom, and that would extend into the alleyway.

He said he would have to discuss the alley closure idea with Chiles.

City Attorney Jim Dye said that while closure "has been done before," it would not resolve the setback issue.

Hostetler noted that the city had given the Sandbar building permits as far back as 1994 under the assumption the alleyway had been previously vacated.

Chiles said he has to move a portion of the restaurant building 8 feet into the alleyway to build a restroom facility for both men and women, but board members believed a unisex bathroom could be built in the restaurant building now, without expanding the footprint.

Trudelle said she could agree to close the alleyway to provide ADA parking, but not to an extension of the rest room into the alley.

"I think that's a reasonable compromise," she said.

New board member Frank Pytel agreed with Trudelle's compromise, as long as nothing is put in the right of way.

Although he voted to deny the vacation request, he observed that "some ADA accommodation has to be made eventually."

The board voted 3-1 to recommend denial of the vacation request to the city commission, with Barlow casting the dissenting vote.

Hostetler said he will likely appeal to the commission.

Island Marine
A request by Island Marine LLC and Island Deli LLC for variances to the minimum lot width in the retail-office-residential zone for the five lots they own from 410 Pine Ave. to 418 Pine Ave. ended with a 2-2 vote, effectively continuing the request to the Feb. 23 P&Z meeting.

The lots are "lots of record," said attorney Barbara Levin representing the owners, but need a variance under the current code because they don't meet the 7,500 square-foot requirement.

Levin said the property had been a marina since around 1950, and the lots were platted in 1913.

She said the variance request meets all the city criteria for a variance, and "residential construction" is consistent with the ROR district. Nearby neighbors are not opposed to the project, Levin added.

The board, however, was concerned because the code states a single-family home can be built in the R-1 zone, but it doesn't address the ROR zone.

Dye said that in his opinion the code doesn't prohibit construction of a single-family home on a sub-standard lot in the ROR zone.

Barlow wondered if something this large doesn't fall under the current building moratorium and Pytel asked Levin about combining the lots to build four units. Levin noted, however, that no two adjoining lots are under the same ownership. Island Marine LLC owns three non-adjoining lots while Island Deli owns the other two.

Jeff Van Hoose of both Island Marine and Island Deli said each house will have two-stories of livable space over parking, with 2,200 square feet under air.

"These are very similar to what (developer) Reed Mapes has built in Holmes Beach. These are very high-end houses."

He said if the lot-width variance is granted, all other setback requirements could be met.

Van Hoose presented a design of the proposed houses, but Dye cautioned that the board should look at the design only as an example. Approval of that design and construction is a separate issue for the building department, he said, and any board decision should be based on the code and criteria for a variance.

Trudelle, however, said the variance could be granted only if the ROR is considered an R-1 district.

Board member Margaret Jenkins said her major concern was the proposal doesn't seem to fit with the city's comprehensive plan.

Pytel and Jenkins voted to deny the variance while Barlow and Trudelle were against the motion.

The 2-2 vote, with three board members absent, makes the matter still pending before the board, Dye said, 10a.nd further action was continued to the Feb. 23 P&Z meeting.