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Planners push outdoor dining ordinance along

By Staff | Mar 24, 2010

On Tuesday, the city’s Planning Commission moved forward an ordinance that will allow island restaurants located outside the commercial district an opportunity to apply for bonus outdoor seating by a 5-1 vote.

The document will now go before the City Council, who will present the first reading of the ordinance at their April 6 meeting.

Under terms of the recommended ordinance, affected restaurants will be given the opportunity to apply for portable seating, tables and other accommodations for bonus outdoor seats for dining in addition to the number of permitted indoor seats.

“Bonus outdoor dining is permitted at restaurants within a commercial zoning district where a restaurant use is permitted as a conditional use,” the amended document reads in part. “Bonus outdoor dining, pursuant to this section, is also permitted where a restaurant is located outside a commercial zoning district.”

Because restaurant owners must provide a long-form application as part of the process, each eatery looking to add outdoor dining space will come before the Planning Commission.

Commissioner Tom Krekel, who voted against the ordinance, again pointed out to his fellow planners that the amount of noise pollution that will be created at restaurants located within the residential zoning district may be problematic.

“In essence, we’re taking (accepting additional noise) off the table,” Krekel said.

City Attorney Ken Cuyler explained that any restaurant which might be approved to add outdoor dining would be required to comply with all city code criteria, including noise statutes, and would be subject to renewal of their conditional use permit every two years.

“All we are doing is giving them an opportunity to plead their case,” said Paul Reynolds. “I think we need to give them that opportunity.”

At the start of their meeting, commission chairman Michael Valiquette noted the comments he heard during last week’s City Council meeting, which lamented the Land Development Code subcommittee’s decision to allow a group of planning professionals to make a “formal” presentation as part of the public comment portion of their meeting.

During the LDC’s March 9 session, Mark Anderson, Bruce Rogers, Jeff Good and Rob Andrys were allowed almost an hour to deliver a PowerPoint presentation urging a change in Sanibel’s “antiquated” land development codes. The group spoke on behalf of SARR (Sanibel Alliance for Renewable Resources).

According to Valiquette, he allowed the group the opportunity to speak during public comment because the subcommittee does not limit the amount of time audience members are allowed to speak, unlike the City Council’s three minute restriction.

Several members of the council, including Mayor Mick Denham and councilman Peter Pappas, were outspoken in their displeasure of allowing the presentation to take part during public comment.

“I’m not gonna take comments from members of the council on the use of the time clock,” Valiquette said.

“Certainly the clock was an issue,” added Paul Reynolds. “I think this is another example of something that has gotten completely out of hand.”

Fellow planner Holly Smith stated that not having a time limit on public comment allows the commission to be “like a filter for the City Council.”

“I think that we were all kind of caught off guard, but now we know,” added Jimmy Jordan, Director of Planning. “I think we need to know, in the future, what the topic is going to be and determine if that’s something we need to let you know about.”

Valiquette admitted that he was “hesitant” to let the group continue after they requested time to set up their presentation, but suggested to the commission they not consider limiting public comment during their meetings.

During public comment, Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane said that he “struggled with having two professional people (speaking) under public comment.”

“Let’s just agree to disagree,” Ruane said, noting that there may still be some lingering bad feelings between the council and commission in the wake of work completed last year on Land Development Code Section 86-43. “Let’s just move forward.”

Pappas also spoke, commenting that he believed Valiquette was being “overly defensive” of his criticism and that the issue had nothing to do with a time clock.

In other business, Jordan informed the commission that it will begin discussions on redevelopment within the resort housing district at their next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, April 13.

“What staff has decided to do was put the council’s recommendations on the next Land Development Code meeting agenda,” he said. “I thought we could start our discussions on the 13th with a look at the redevelopment business as a whole.”

“I hope it won’t just be discussions amongst ourselves,” added Chuck Ketteman. “I hope the process enables an opportunity for input from the affected properties.”

Smith further suggested that each affected property be notified of the meeting directly, but Jordan did not consider going to that length appropriate, instead indicating that the session will be properly noticed on the city’s Web site and in the local newspapers.