New restaurant in Village Shops put on hold
Fine diners will have to skip Village Shops for a while longer after the Sanibel Planning Commission voted 6-0, with one abstention, to grant a continuance to RLR Investments for its plans to establish a fine dining restaurant in the facility.
RLR Investments, otherwise known as Royal Shell, owns the majority of space at Village Shops and requested a conditional use permit application for a new 50-seat restaurant with carry-out food service at Village Shops, which would take up three existing units with a combined space of 2,146 square feet.
But concerns from shop owners and the neighboring residential owner, Carol Simcoe, has put the project on hold.
“I am not against a restaurant being there, but not butt up against my residence,” said Simcoe, who’s condo is connected to the Village Shops and would be basically sharing the same wall as the proposed restaurant. “I never have been informed about the restaurant until just a little bit ago and this will affect the worth of my condo.”
Simcoe added noise pollution, as well as scents emitted from the restaurant will also be a disturbance.
Another concerned shop owner is Maureen Watson, who owns Watson MacRae Gallery in Village Shops. The gallery would have been the space used for the restaurant and Watson said a move would basically force her to close the gallery’s doors.
“I was informed by RLR that they would be holding new space for me (in Village Shops) but I received no notice otherwise of the (project),” Watson said. “I can’t move, because I have no financial backing for a move. The new space RLR is holding for me needs a lot of renovation and I can’t afford that. I will be out of business if I have to move.”
Several people voiced support for Watson, including Sanibel resident Larry Schopp.
“The gallery is an icon to the island,” Schopp said. “It would be sorry to see it close because of yet another restaurant being built on Sanibel. It is the finest art gallery in Lee County.”
RLR Property Manager Lisa Bramm also made a presentation to the commission, outlining the restaurant plan in Village Shops. She said there isn’t a vendor yet lined up to run the restaurant, but a liquor license will be sought and the plan is for it to be open until 10 p.m.
“The reason for the application is because with all the shopping centers on Sanibel, (Village Shops) is the only one without a restaurant,” Bramm said. “There have been tenants who have come and gone because they struggle to make it here. We want to aid the tenants and increase traffic to the shops by adding a restaurant.”
Bramm said RLR chose the units they did because of the much larger space to help accommodate a restaurant.
“There are also two ramps which can be used and it’s closer to the dumpsters,” Bramm said. “We value Watson MacRae Gallery as a tenant (which they have been for six years) and we have space reserved for her and we have offered her the front of the building, which has direct visibility.
“There also would be no construction during the busy season.”
The restaurant would also have its own restrooms, as well as the public restrooms which are already present on site.
Several members of the planning commission voiced their concerns about the potential loss of Watson MacRae Gallery, as well as the effect the restaurant would have on Simcoe’s property, even though there was a risk owning a condo in a commercially used facility.
One condition the Planning Department recommended was if there was a need to add more parking, RLR would have to raise the back buildings higher, which would create up to 33 more parking spaces.
“My hope is that we don’t have to decide on this permit today and that RLR can look at different alternatives,” said commission member Holly Smith.
Commissioner chair Dr. Philip Marks said he would be against the current proposal and encouraged RLR and Bramm, along with RLR attorney Beverly Grady, to come up with alternatives for a new restaurant.
“Find a change in which the gallery can stay open,” Marks said.
Commission member Jason Maughan said he would be for a new restaurant on the property, but that RLR proposed to do just the requirements, nothing a little extra to help alleviate the concerns.
“I was waiting to hear a plan which would do a little extra, and not just the minimal required,” Maughan said. “But I haven’t seen going just a little above and beyond to help out their neighbors. I would be against it as it stands now.”
After a 10-minute recess to give Grady and Bramm time to converse, Grady requested a continuance for the permit, which was granted for the Dec. 8, Planning Commission meeting.
Another continuance was granted for the Dec. 8, meeting for a request to amend the preliminary plat approvals for the Periwinkle Preserve/Rosen and Landbel major subdivisions previously approved and amended by the Planning Commission.
The applicant proposed to amend this approval to permit a combined unified residential cluster development with 12 single-family residential lots and a common lot that includes a community building and guesthouse.
The parcels are located at 1881 Periwinkle Way and 1905 Periwinkle Way and the request was filed by property owners Ronald and Spring Rosen and Landbel Inc.
Variances were approved for a boat dock at 2667 Coconut Drive for owners Paul and Janet Tiffany.