homepage logo

Neighbor uses social media to protest proposed restaurant

By Staff | Nov 26, 2014

A proposed shift in locations for an island restaurant is already drawing loud complaints from those living near the new site.

One islander, in fact, will take his protests viral. Charles Sobczak this week will use social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to picket the proposed move of Doc Ford’s (Sanibel) Rum Bar & Grille from Rabbit Road to a proposed site on Tarpon Bay Road at Periwinkle Way. The 2.5-acre parcel is across from the Bailey’s Center shopping complex. The restaurant owners seek a conditional use permit to build at the vacant lot. Plans for the new restaurant are under study with city planners. If the plans meet city guidelines, a vote on the conditional use permit by the city’s Planning Commission could come by the end of the year, city officials said. Public input is part of the approval process.

But Sobczak, who lives nearby on Sanibel Boulevard, isn’t waiting. He will post a letter to social media suggesting a restaurant in the scope and popularity of a Doc Ford’s would create a “traffic nightmare,” said Sobczak, an island Realtor, wildlife author and columnist for the Islander. His Facebook site has some 500 followers and his protests would ripple outward, he said.

In his letter, Sobczak concedes that the Doc Ford’s chain is popular with locals and tourists.

“Everyone,” he wrote, “loves a success story, but the dramatically negative impacts caused by the location of this proposed development will change the very nature of our Sanctuary island forever. By contrast, Doc Ford’s current Sanibel location is ideal, with minimal negative impact on our residents and visitors.

“Please consider the irrevocable consequences of this proposed conditional use permit, and contact the current members of the Planning Commission and the City Council to let them know your thoughts. Remember, just because something can happen doesn’t mean it should.”

The letter is signed by Sobczak and his wife, Molly Heuer. The couple live on Sanibel Boulevard, which borders the vacant parcel to its north side. Island Inn Road borders the parcel’s south side where traffic at the proposed development would enter and exit. Sobczak also complains that noise and rubbish from a restaurant of that scope would further disrupt his quiet street and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Sobczak is also concerned that the deal is a slamdunk because a partner in the restaurant is a sitting councilman. Marty Harrity, however, has no input or oversight of the project that would require Planning Commission approval to proceed.

“No matter where we go,” Harrity said of his popular chain with other locations in Fort Myers Beach and Captiva, “we’re going to be good neighbors.”

Harrity would not comment on specifics of Sobczak’s protests.

Site plans for a new Doc Ford’s filed with the city show a 7,600-square-foot building with seating for some 214 guests and 123 parking slots. A conditional use permit is required because of the proposed higher density of patrons and traffic for the parcel that had been a medical complex. The land was once owned by Sam Bailey of the retailing family.