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Planners give approval for Twilight Cafe relocation

By Staff | Oct 13, 2010

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Planning Commission, the seven-member panel unanimously approved and conditional use and development permit application from the Barrier Island Restaurant Group to relocate Twilight Cafe from their current West Gulf Drive location to a now-vacant Periwinkle Way facility.

Twilight Cafe owner Robert Parks and attorney Robert Monk presented their application to the city’s Planning Department staff, represented by Roy Gibson. According to the application, the restaurant is seeking the move to the former Sanibel Sweet Treats & Gourmet Deli, which closed early last year. The development permit application seeks a change from a take-out to a sit-down establishment while the conditional use permit is for a 62-seat dine-in restaurant.

After hearing the application, commissioner Chuck Ketteman cited a few issues, most notably the visibility of oncoming traffic along that section of Periwinkle Way. Dr. Phillip Marks noted that the no carry-out policy might seem too restrictive for customers who might wish to place an order by phone and bring a prepared meal home.

Gibson explained that the restriction for no carry-out service had to do with the parking requirements for sit-down eateries, which differ greatly from take-out businesses. While signage would not allow the restaurant to promote food “to go,” allowing carry-out items from the menu would be acceptable.

Another sticking point which came up during deliberations was the hours of operation Twilight Cafe would be allowed. The application stipulates that the restaurant, which is located on the same parcel as an office building, would open after 5 p.m. The office space, now unoccupied, would be required to be vacant between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. during to the number of parking spaces — 29 — required onsite.

Marks asked Parks if he might consider opening the business earlier in the day, during lunch hours, or on the weekends for Sunday brunch, when the office would generally be closed.

“Expanding our hours is not under consideration right now,” Parks said. “But you’re giving me some good ideas.”

Planning Director requested that Parks provide a proposed schedule of operating hours for Twilight Cafe; Parks said that their hours haven’t been determined yet.

“I would feel more comfortable if we had the days of the week and the hours of operation,” said Jordan. “Not so much for when the restaurant will be open, but for the restrictions for the offices.”

Gibson noted that the application stated that the restaurant planned on opening at 5 p.m., but could be changed only to stipulate that it could operate only during hours that didn’t run concurrent with the office space, if and when that becomes occupied.

Judy Michie, owner of Cottages To Castles Vacation Rentals (across the street from the proposed restaurant relocation), spoke in favor of the application, telling the commission, “Everything that they have ever done has been for the betterment of Sanibel.”

Marks motioned for the application to be accepted, which was seconded by Tom Krekel, subject to 15 conditions which must be met before final approval. The motion passed unanimously.

In other business, planners approved a variance application from Kennard and Mary Warfield to expand their single-family residence on San Carlos Bay Drive. Due to the home’s proximity to the mean high water line, the structure cannot be located closer than 30 feet from San Carlos Bay, and more than 50 percent of the habitable floor area must be located within the Altered Lands Zone.

The Warfield’s application also calls for a plan to revegetate the area within the Bay Beach Zone, from which the stone walkway and driveway must be removed, and 75 percent of appropriate vegetation must be native species.

Also, the commission engaged in a brief discussion regarding the boat dock ordinance, now in the hands of City Council, who will conduct a special session on Tuesday, Oct. 19 at 9:15 a.m.

Vice Mayor Mick Denham, delivering his liaison report, suggested that he was not satisfied with the Planning Commission’s work on the proposed resolution.

“We are going down a long road, after which we have to make a big decision,” said Denham. “We are halfway there, with one reading down and one to go.”

Chairman Michael Valiquette told Denham that he was glad the council requested scientific data from experts who had provided testimony during several commission meetings on the matter.

“We got lots of opinions, but no data other than an 18 or 19 year old report from Dr. (Rob) Loflin,” said Valiquette, referencing the director of the city’s Department of Natural Resources.

After some additional talk among the commissioners, City Attorney Ken Cuyler suggested that they should stop discussions on the subject which has already been passed along to council, which is conducting a public hearing on the issue next week. More discussions among the panelists “would not be appropriate,” Cuyler added.