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Date of Issue: July 07, 2005

Sandbar preliminary site plan approved - with conditions

After wading through more than three hours of testimony, the Anna Maria City Commission by a 4-1 vote June 29 approved the preliminary site plan of the Sandbar restaurant, but attached seven stipulations that owner Ed Chiles must meet before final approval.

Chiles has proposed to expand the Sandbar's bathroom facility to meet the requirements of a lawsuit against the restaurant that allege the rest rooms lack compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition to the rest room, plans call for a redesign of the parking lot, a paver walkway to the facility and construction of swales to improve drainage.

Chiles also wants approval of a 100-seat outdoor pavilion for special events such as weddings that will replace the current tent the Sandbar uses. Chiles has maintained there will be no expansion of the restaurant itself, other than construction of the ADA-compliant rest rooms.

The main objection to the Sandbar's plan was obvious from opponents. The proposed outdoor pavilion for weddings and special events will create additional noise from outdoor entertainment and amplified sound, noise that nearby residents claim has been increasing in frequency since Chiles erected an outdoor tent for those occasions. Some people claimed Chiles is not entitled to outdoor amplified music at the pavilion, just at the outdoor dining area. Chiles has proposed to replace the tent with the permanent pavilion.

Attorney Mike Gallaher, representing the Nally family that lives next to the restaurant, argued that when the commission recently approved the outdoor entertainment ordinance, it was specifically for the current entertainment on the dining deck.

Music at the pavilion is "not a 'grandfathered' use," he said, because the tent was only permitted after the outdoor entertainment ordinance passed.

City Commissioner Carol Ann Magill, who cast the lone dissenting vote against the site plan, said it was her understanding that under the ordinance Chiles could only have outdoor entertainment on the dining deck, not at the tent or proposed pavilion.

Other commissioners, however, said they believe that the ordinance allows outdoor entertainment anywhere at the Sandbar. City Attorney Jim Dye's opinion agreed.

All three sides - city, Sandbar and opponents - presented attorneys, planners and consultants, all with conflicting testimony.

Planner Jan Norsoph, representing the Nallys, proposed 16 stipulations for the site plan and claimed Chiles' plan had seven inconsistencies with the city's comprehensive plan, six inconsistencies with the city's future land-use element and needed six variances to meet city parking codes.

Contractor Tom Ricci of Pompano Beach, who said he was a friend of the Nallys, claimed he was an ADA expert and that after studying the design of the proposed rest room, Chiles did not need to expand that area to become ADA compliant. At a previous hearing for an alleyway vacation, Chiles had presented U.S. Department of Justice-certified ADA consultant Kirk Tcherneshoff, who said Chiles needed the rest room expansion to comply with stipulations in his ADA lawsuit settlement. Tcherneshoff "didn't know what he was talking about," said Ricci.

Resident Robin Wall had her own attorney's opinion, that of Dan Lobeck, who claimed that the pavilion will be on a separate parcel from that of the Sandbar, and therefore any outdoor entertainment at the pavilion would need special permission from the city.

At the least, said Wall, the commission should "eliminate the use of amplified music" at the pavilion.

Chiles responded that the pavilion will have baffle drop curtains to muffle sound, a $4,500 sound system to help subdue noise, and he's hired one person who will oversee all entertainment at the pavilion and use of the sound system.

Any noise generated at the pavilion will still have to comply with the city's noise-ordinance requirements, he noted.

Marie White, who lives near the Sandbar, said she loves the Sandbar, but the proposed pavilion will only "create chaos" for the adjacent residents.

Attorney Ricinda Perry, representing Chiles, noted that some of the Sandbar's neighbors had built their residences on commercial property and the Nallys had been advised by the city commission then of the "negative impact" of living in a commercial area.

Eventually, the commission voted 4-1 to approve the preliminary site plan, but added seven stipulations that must be met before final approval.

The stipulations are that no food preparation will be allowed at the pavilion; the site plan shall indicate where off-street unloading will take place; Chiles needs an approved maintenance agreement with city for right-of-way improvements; the site plan is limited to improvements on the Sandbar proprerty or property under its control; a wooden deck northwest of the pavilion will be removed unless Chiles can produce a permit; loading and unloading will take place only between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.; and one section of the parking lot will be redesigned to eliminate the need to back out onto Spring Avenue.

Commission Chairperson John Quam said he would set a date for final approval when Chiles has met all stipulations and permit requirements and a final site plan is ready.