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Planning approves Sea Glass Lane expansion

By Staff | Aug 17, 2017

Although it was not a unanimous vote, the Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit allowing Sea Glass Lane to expand its store into its neighboring unit for a total of 2,765 square feet of floor area last week.

“I’m excited a business this unique on Sanibel is so successful that they can expand,” Commissioner Dirk deWerff said.

The vote to approve the conditional use permit was 4-1, with Holly Smith voting no. John Talmage and Chris Heidrick were excused from last week’s meeting.

“I have a concern of the growing increase in expansions verses the smaller units and being able to have the ability for smaller businesses to try and come and survive on this island. I think this is difficult for them to do so,” Smith said.

Chair Phillip Marks voted yes, but with reservations.

“Even if there were some smaller places, there is no question that Periwinkle Place is the most expensive place to open a shop. There is no question. I think small shops tend to either hear by gossip, or going to the managers of the entire complex and finding out they cannot afford to move there,” he said. “I think most of the smaller ones are going to have to start somewhere else because simply they cannot afford the rent.”

City of Sanibel Planner Benjamin Pople said the conditional use permit, which was not for a formula retail store, is new procedurally, as far as staff can determine.

“This is the first application since the adoption of ordinance 06-22 proposes the combination of retail space into a unit of more than 2,000 square feet,” he said.

The ordinance that created the regulation was adopted in 2007 and was triggered primarily by the development for Mango Bay shopping center, Pople said, where virtually all of the street frontage units were combined into a large retail space. The ordinance was adopted with the intention of keeping the unique character of the community, while trying to obtain a balance between resident and tourist offerings, as well as giving the mom and pop shops the ability to operate.

“The 06 ordinance was written and adopted to try and limit the size of commercial space to encourage, or continue to make available, small unit sizes that were more conducive to a mom and pop shop opening in that space and operating,” he said.

The conditional use permit was filed to allow two existing commercial units to be combined for approximately 2,765 square feet.

The smaller unit, comprised of 767 square feet is the existing unit of Sea Glass Lane. It is located next to Cargo, 1,884 square feet, which Sea Glass Lane wants to take over. Pople said the Cargo unit had previously been combined with a unit above, less than 2,000 square feet, to incorporate an interior staircase.

The location of Sea Glass Lane is in the back southwest corner of Periwinkle Place Shopping Center. On the first floor, Pople said the wall that is separating the two units will be removed and combined to an existing space.

“My concern is that by combining, or just changing from the smaller space into the larger 1,800 space, we are potentially eliminating one more smaller space, which a small mom and pop would not have the ability to come into because the retail space is quite limited,” Smith said.

Within Periwinkle Place there are currently 11 non-combined, single commercial unit spaces, including unit 19, which is the current Sea Glass Lane location.

“The trend over time has been to combine units within many commercial centers in particularly Periwinkle Place,” Pople said, adding that there is some fluidity of units that are combined and then divided. “Even though approved as conditional use, there is nothing preventing a property owner, or future applicant from dividing any of these units with proper approval into smaller units.”

Marks said he believes when he came on the board almost 13 years ago there were almost 40 units, compared to 29 now.

“Eleven of those that were separate have grown due to the success of some of the businesses. I’m not saying I’m for it, or against it, but (what) happens is it just makes it more difficult for a small shop to start there when there aren’t any available small spaces left,” he said. “

Pople said the permit utilizes more qualitative standards for the combination of 2,000 square feet or greater.

“The general standards have been met because it is an existing developed commercial center. The physical changes to the unit are fairly minimal. But, the trigger is opening a retail space that is more than 2,000 square feet in size,” he said. “The Planning Department does not take particular issue with this application. In the event that the Planning Commission can find all of these conditions, general standards and specific conditions required for this conditional use permit are met, we have included six proposed conditions.”

Commissioner Karen Storjohann asked about the firewall, and sprinkler system for the unit. She has asked why the fire marshall had not weighed in on the application because what he determines could potentially stop the entire process of the expansion.

Pople said as he understands it, all of the unit separations are firewall separations. He said upon approval, the applicant needed to get building permit approval, as well as approval from the fire marshal before occupying the combined unit.

Sea Glass Lane Manager and Partner Lisa Golle said they will be expanding their clothing line and adding jewelry with the expanded space.

“Eighty percent of our products are USA made. All of our jewelry is real sea glass, it has not been tumbled. It’s all natural. All of the sea glass companies that we use, it’s four companies, they are all women owned, or husband and wife owned. They do work out of their homes,” she said, adding that one is from Seattle, Nantucket, North Carolina and Boston. “It’s pretty cool because all of these families across the United States are coming to Sanibel.”