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LDC favors allowing additional outdoor dining

By Staff | Mar 10, 2010

At the request of City Council, the Land Development Code subcommittee spent much of their meeting on Tuesday discussing whether they should allow outdoor dining in restaurants located outside the commercial district.

And while the seven-member panel, which is comprised of the city’s Planning Commission members, ruled in favor of accepting those applications from restaurants currently operating with a conditional use permit within Sanibel’s residential district, not everybody supported the idea.

“It was my understanding that the City Council asked us to consider this,” LDC member Tom Krekel said to open the debate. “But what I want to know is… why?”

Krekel, who voted against the measure, asked his fellow panelists by what means would a member of the public have to petition against the potential legislation, except to attend a Planning Commission hearing during which an application is considered.

Specifically, he cited the concern about additional noise levels which might accompany the extension of a restaurant’s dining area in outdoor quarters.

“It’s not only going to change the amount of noise,” Krekel said, noting that the LDC should consider the rights of residents equally to the rights of local businesses. “It’s going to change the appearance (of the restaurant).”

LDC chairman Michael Valiquette explained that should the city alter the legislation, they would only be allowing the affected restaurants – which number less than a dozen – to apply for a conditional use permit for outdoor dining. If their application is approved, their permit would be valid for two years.

Jimmy Jordan, Director of the city’s Planning Department, also noted that throughout the duration of the permit, those restaurants would be monitored to ensure compliance with local codes and ordinances, including noise statutes.

Under current Sanibel law, Cuyler noted, a maximum of 15 percent of the total number of permitted indoor seats are allowed as addition outdoor dining space, with a cap of 32 seats. The minimum number of seats is 16.

Fellow LDC members Charles Heidrick and Holly Smith said that they would support the legislation as long as each application would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“With four tables and as many as 16 diners, I’m not sure that I see too much of a conflict,” Smith added, citing the Twilight Cafe as an example. “It doesn’t give them carte blanc. It gives them an opportunity to add four more tables outdoors.”

Paul Reynolds said that he considered it “an issue of fairness,” which was echoed in Chuck Ketteman’s statement: “I think, from a fairness standpoint, I’m in favor of this.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Claudia Burns suggested that applicants be encouraged to prohibit smoking in outdoor dining areas of restaurants. Because local governments cannot place additional conditions on the statewide smoking ban in public places, each individual restaurant’s owner would have to establish their own policy regarding smoking on premises.

The subcommittee passed the legislation, 6-1, with Krekel casting the lone dissenting vote. It will now go before the Planning Commission at their next meeting, scheduled to take place on March 23.