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Date of Issue: May 06, 2009

Outdoor dining back on agenda

Holmes Beach city commissioners plan to take another bite at the outdoor dining ordinance.

Commissioner Pat Morton suggested during a meeting April 28 that the city revisit the issue and found consensus among other commissioners.

The board is expected to take up the ordinance at a work session May 12 at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Morton said he’s concerned with the procedure that sends a restaurant owner before the board of adjustment if a plan for outdoor dining requires a special review.

“It’s too costly for people,” Morton said. “I’d like the commission to revisit that.”

Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens polled commissioners and they agreed to further discussion.

“I wouldn’t have any problem with that at all,” said Commissioner John Monetti, who manages the Columbia Restaurant on St. Armands Circle in Sarasota. “I don’t think we have that many things on our plate.”

Monetti said if the city’s process is too cumbersome, the commission should review the ordinance adopted last August.

Commissioner Pat Geyer, who operates Duffy’s Tavern, asked if a restaurant with special circumstances would go before the city commission if not the BOA.

Morton said he thought that would be the process.

“We’ll still look into safety?” Geyer asked.

“Oh yeah,” said Morton.

The commission adopted a new outdoor dining ordinance in August 2008 after a number of discussions on the issue.

City policy had been to allow restaurants to place eight seats outdoors, a rule adopted to soften the blow of a state smoking ban. Additionally, restaurants could bring more seats outdoors by eliminating the same number of seats inside.

The new ordinance allows restaurants to further expand outdoor dining — allowed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends — provided applications to the city be accompanied by an authorization from the property owner, contain a site plan with “the proposed location of the outdoor dining area, showing dimensions, ingress/egress access, exits and the proposed number of outdoor seats and tables,” as well as a description of inside seats and tables and parking spaces.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino objected to the new ordinance because it required legally nonconforming operations, such as Skinny’s Place on Gulf Drive, to first seek approval from the BOA. The restaurant is a grandfathered commercial operation in a residential zone.

Morton raised the same issue last week, saying a few other restaurants were in similar situations.

Several weeks ago, the commission adopted a resolution setting a $100 fee for restaurants applying for outdoor seating or to expand outdoor seating in Holmes Beach.

The resolution passed 4-1, with Zaccagnino voting against it because, he said, the outdoor dining ordinance should simply be revised to increase the number of seats.