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LDC considering new outdoor dining legislation

By Staff | Feb 24, 2010

During the first Land Development Code subcommittee meeting of the year, members of the panel discussed drafting an amendment that would allow an outdoor seating area at restaurants located outside of the city’s commercial district. Currently, such a dining space is prohibited.

“To give you some background, in 2006 the Land Development Code was amended to allow outdoor dining at restaurants located within the commercial zoning district where a restaurant use is permitted as a conditional use,” Planning Director Jimmy Jordan told the seven-member panel. “Then in 2008, the Land Development Code was amended to allow outdoor seating at carryout restaurants located within the commercial zoning district.”

Recently, the owner of Twilight Cafe – which is located within a residential district with a conditional use permit – inquired the Planning Commission on whether he could install an outdoor dining area at his West Gulf Drive eatery. Two other Sanibel restaurants, Gramma Dots and The Mad Hatter, have also been identified as businesses who might consider adding outdoor dining.

Jordan also noted that the city has a number of other businesses operating restaurants outside of the commercial zoning district, including establishments at The Sundial, West Wind Inn, Casa Ybel Resort, Shell Harbor Inn, Holiday Inn, Beachview, The Dunes, The Sanctuary and Island Inn.

“Each one seems to be a little bit different, so it would seem difficult to write something that would affect each of them equally,” said Tom Krekel.

According to Jordan’s staff report presented to the subcommittee, the two biggest questions presented by making an amendment includes:

If the code is amended to allow bonus outdoor dining at a non-conforming restaurant use, then that restaurant must be open to the general public at large.

If the code is amended to allow bonus outdoor dining at a non-conforming restaurant use, then that restaurant must also operate and comply with all established procedures and standards as a restaurant within the commercial zoning district.

In response to the issue of additional noise that would be created by brining restaurant patrons outdoors, Dr. Phillip Marks stated that since each potential applicant would be issued a conditional use permit for a period of only two years, this would allow for the LDC to monitor and reassess each businesses’ application for future permit extensions.

“So there is a way to monitor this,” he added.

Jordan noted that his staff would “weigh each application and consider that this is within a residential zone.”

Other issues brought up during the debate included the additional sewer fees which each restaurant would have to bear as well as smoking regulations in outdoor areas.

LDC chairman Michael Valiquette suggested a 50-foot setback for smoking in outdoor dining areas that could be created within the amended ordinance. City Attorney Ken Cuyler said that he would investigate the state statute which legislates smoking regulations in public buildings, along with how much power the LDC could impose on creating such local smoking laws.

Jordan and Cuyler both agreed to bring back additional information related to the topic at the next LDC subcommittee meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, March 9 starting at 8:30 a.m.