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Planners give nod to Synergy, Norris Home Furnishings

By Staff | Jan 26, 2011

During Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting, commissioners approved three conditional use permits for local businesses while putting the final touches on a resolution recommending City Council approve changes to the Land Development Code as they relate to redevelopment in the Resort Housing District.

In one application, the property owner of the Sanibel Inn (97 units) and Song of the Sea (30 units) — The Blackstone Group, LP — requested a conditional use permit to merge both properties in order to meet the 100-unit requirement to qualify for a state liquor license.

Blackstone was issued a temporary license, since both properties were under common ownership and management of the units at both resorts had been planned to merge together for purposes of obtaining the license.

Under provisions of the permit, granted unanimously by the seven-member panel, the Sanibel Inn must amend its business tax receipt to reflect 97 units, rather than the 92 currently on file, and all liquor sales on the Song of the Sea property will be prohibited.

Also, a conditional use permit was granted for Synergy, a retail apparel, accessories and footwear business located in the Tahitian Gardens Shopping Center, which became the city’s first “formula retail store” since the adoption of an ordinance governing such practices in 2007. All previous “formula” businesses on the island — retail sales establishments with a standardized name, signage, architecture, trademark, logo, uniforms and/or merchandise — have been grandfathered.

One sticking point in the application was a proposal to remove a 12-foot section of wall between Synergy and Sanibel Sole, also owned by Lorrie Schlosser, located in the unit next door. Both units are 1,200 square feet individually. According to code regulations, a “formula” store may not exceed 2,000 square feet.

Commissioner Paul Reynolds suggested that removing a portion of the wall between both units would, in essence, make a single, large space.

“If you have two pools and you remove the wall between them, then you’ve got one huge pool,” said Reynolds, who worried that the businesses — although separate now — might become co-mingled in the future. “I have a big problem with that.”

Beverly Grady, representing the property owner, RLR Investments, said that it wasn’t proper to forecast what businesses might or might not do. The opening between the stores intended to “enhance customer flow” and give Synergy and Sanibel Sole, a footwear shop, more flexibility in staffing. Both stores would maintain separate inventories and cash registers.

Chuck Ketteman asked Schlosser if, hypothetically, the permit would allow the wall opening to be conditional on keeping both businesses separate. Schlosser agreed.

“Yes… I’m a rule-follower,” she added.

Commissioners voted 6-1, with Reynolds dissenting, to grant the permit and allow an opening in the wall between the stores, with the condition that both exterior doors remain unlocked during business hours and merchandise be kept separate.

Norris Home Furnishings, a retail furniture and interior design business located in the Priscilla Murphy Center, was also granted a conditional use permit made necessary by their “formula” designation.

Because they operate a similar outlet in Fort Myers and intend to sell showroom floor merchandise, the Planning Department required a permit to allow the “formula” business. Norris is primarily an interior designer, but — as its owners stated — they may sell furniture on site, as customers may only wish to purchase items they have in stock.

“For purposes of the city’s commercial land use regulations, formula retail stores do not include establishments providing professional services,” the city’s code reads, in part. They include real estate offices, medical and dental offices, banks, accounting services, insurance agencies and interior designers, among others.

Holly Smith’s motion to approved the permit passed unanimously.

Both permits will seek final approval at the next meeting of the commission, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 8 at 9 a.m.

In other business, planners moved forward a resolution approve code changes related to redevelopment in the Resort Housing District. Passage of the resolution was slowed due to lack of agreement between the commissioners whether all of the alterations of the code are consistent with the Sanibel Plan.

“I would recommend that City Council make the determination whether or not they are consistent,” said Ketteman, who made a motion to accept the resolution with two changes: alterations to the city’s previous height limitations and allowing swimming pools and accessory structures within the Gulf Beach Zone to be reconstructed in their existing location.

Ketteman’s motion was approved, 7-0.