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Date of Issue: June 18, 2008

Sandbar site plan decision continued to August

Some people might compare Anna Maria residents who knowingly moved into a house in the commercial district near the Sandbar Restaurant to people who bought a home near an airport, then complained about the noise from all the planes.

But an airport can’t control how much noise an aircraft makes, while Anna Maria can determine how much noise a commercial establishment can generate. And “noise” was a concern the planning and zoning board had at its June 5 meeting to sign off on the Sandbar restaurant’s recently completed renovations and site plan that has taken it and owner Ed Chiles nearly four years to complete.

The concern about additional noise centered on Chiles’ proposal to add “site No. 2” to the final plan. That involves installation of some posts to accommodate two roll-out awnings, 17-feet 5-feet each.

A majority of board members believed this was something “new” for the site plan and voted to continue the meeting to Aug. 5 before any final decision. Board chairman Doug Copeland asked Chiles to return to the meeting with “more information” on the awnings.

There also was concern that parties could be held under the awnings and live entertainment or a music deejay at that party, in conjunction with music at the Sandbar’s pavilion, could be uncomfortable for nearby residents.

During the ensuing two months, the board also asked Chiles to look at an alternative location for the restaurant’s Dumpster and to relocate an outdoor ice machine. Chiles has a city permit issued in 1989 for the current location of the garbage Dumpster, but agreed that it had to be moved. The present location puts it directly along the path to the beach, often creating unwanted sights and smells for visitors.

The board informally agreed to the remaining four sections of the site plan, concluding that parking was sufficient at the restaurant, the additional tree plantings and landscaping near the pedestrian access are acceptable, the revision of parking lot D circulation was not a problem and that pavers were not needed for the beach access path.

Copeland also asked city planner Alan Garrett to determine if the restaurant’s propane tank encroached into the city’s right of way, as some members of the public maintained.

In addition to the noise issue that “site No. 2” might create, board members were also concerned after Garrett said that the city does not regulate awnings as far as setback requirements, but any awning could not encroach into the city’s rights of way.

Some members of the public, including outspoken opponent Robin Wall, argued that the addition of the awnings to the restaurant was creating “another party area,” and this would have a “negative impact” on the neighborhood.

 Chiles said he would agree to a stipulation that he would not have two deejays or live bands playing at the same time, but city commissioner Dale Woodland, speaking as a member of the public, said that more information on site No. 2 is necessary as it’s not part of the original site plan.

Copeland agreed, noting that there appeared to be a “lot of concern” from both board members and the public about this addition.

Most board members and city residents — and Chiles himself — agreed the Dumpster was in a poor location and Joe White of Spring Avenue offered an alternative location that Chiles said he would examine. The problem with any location, noted Chiles, is that Waste Management Inc. has to approve a location to ensure its trucks can reach their Dumpster without difficulty.

“I think between us, the city and Waste Management we can come up with something,” predicted Chiles. “I’ve always said that we would move the Dumpster when the project was done. We’ve got to get it away from the back door. We should have a plan for everything by Aug. 5.”

After the meeting was continued to August, board member Randall Stover complimented Chiles and the public for “compromising” on issues rather than taking a “confrontational” route.

Chiles began his site plan for the Sandbar four years ago to have the rest rooms at the popular establishment come into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other renovations were needed to comply with city codes and plans for an enclosed pavilion for special events, such as weddings, was added. He also made a major improvement with incorporated solutions for the main parking area to the restaurant and city drainage problems.

The Sandbar has been named one of the top locations for a wedding in the United States by Knots Best of Weddings magazine of New York.