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Commission approves custard fast food restaurant

By Staff | Sep 18, 2019

The Sanibel Planning Commission approved a 1,659-square-foot fast food restaurant, Sanibel Custard Shack on Periwinkle Way last week after a more than two-hour discussion that included many public comments from the community.

Commissioner Matthew Kirchner opposed.

The 0.53 acre parcel, 1219 Periwinkle Way, once had a gas station and car wash in 1958 before it was demolished in 2002. Since then it has been vacant.

Planner Craig Chandler said the most significant revision from the previous planning commission meeting, as recommended by staff, was a revised site plan that included a shared ingress/egress driveway with an adjacent property, 1213 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel Air and Electric, and 1215 Periwinkle Way, single family residence.

“The driveway splits at 22 feet wide,” he explained.

The existing 15-foot wide roadway easement did not provide sufficient access to emergency vehicles, so a proposed 5-foot wide easement was dedicated for emergency use only.

“The applicant provided multiple options, but staff found this was optimal option. This design avoids impacts to utility infrastructure both in the right away and also the roadway easement on the Hayes lot. Staff found that avoiding the straight shot design this will slow vehicles down as they are approaching the shared use path. There are approximately 18 feet provided from where the driveway split to where the driveway intersects with the path,” Chandler said.

Commissioner Karen Storjohann said she is not comfortable with the distance.

“How people drive and you are talking in season and big trucks that have to go back to Sanibel Air. You have two vehicles sitting there and you are going no place,” she said.

Senior Vice President of CES Inc. and project engineer for the project, Ahmad Kareh said they came up with the best solution they thought they could in terms of the driveway. He said they are granting a 5 feet easement, which will provide a total of 20 feet easement.

“I’m really concerned how that dynamic is going to work with that driveway with the cut across. We are going to be piling up traffic and if someone wants to make a left out of there during season we are really at a stand still,” Storjohann said.

Brian Hayes of Sanibel Air said he did not foresee a problem with the layout.

Diane Irwin, who lives in the single-family residence since 1986 also spoke.

“I am the property south of Sanibel Air Conditioning. At one time, of course, that was all one property from Periwinkle to the sewer plant. It was subdivided over the years. I have a main concern with this driveway. I don’t know if they realize that we have trucks coming in all the time. There is a lot coming in, in addition to going out. I am also concerned with the traffic flow. I think there could be a problem. I am thrilled to see something going in there instead of a parking lot for Huxters, but I think it should be for the upmost consideration for all the property owners that are there,” she said.

The number of parking spaces, 20, was also discussed in length.

Chandler said the 2017 National Household Travel survey said an average vehicle occupancy is 1.67 occupants per vehicle, which was unchanged from 2009.

“What that means with 20 off street parking spaces provided multiplied by 1.67 is 33 individuals are accommodated by 20 parking spaces,” he said.

When adding 20 proposed bike spaces there are a total of 53 individuals that may be accommodated by the total parking proposed by the applicant.

Formula restaurants was also discussed during the meeting. Chandler said the proposed use does meet fast food restaurants requirements. He said the trademark is not similar, or the same as the other chains owned by the applicant, as well as the architecture, or design and uniforms.

Lisa Whitman, property owner, said they absolutely agree that there should be no chain restaurants on the island because the island is a special place for those who visit and live there.

“Chuck, myself, and my son Henry, who is in the 9th grade, moved to the island two and a half years ago and we are full-time residents. Our dream has always been to open a custard stand on Sanibel. This dream dates back to 2000 when Chuck and I were living in Fort Myers. We visited this island often dreaming of someday living here and opening a small custard stand. Financially that dream was impossible and at that time the dream was also put on hold because in 2001 I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and it was only by the grace of God I stand before you today and able to live this life he has given to me,” she said. “Any small business in order to be successful, there are hardships, risks and heartache. We have had our fair share of hardships and heartache.”

Whitman said they started their other business when she was going through chemo therapy fighting brain cancer.

“I was working every day to establish a business in a community that never even heard of frozen custard all the while undergoing chemotherapy. No one is immune to hardship and we were forced to move back home to Ohio. This dream to live on Sanibel and start a custard stand was put on hold for 19 years. Our hardships and hard work has made us who we are today, allowed us to start a successful business in Ohio,” she said. “There is no other custard shop that is similar to what we want to bring to Sanibel anywhere in the United States. It will be very welcoming for families and visitors. The main focus is on families and the community. We plan to always be good neighbors. We have supported our communities. The custard shop will be a ma and pa shop. You will see Chuck and I working every day, as well our son as well.”