Restaurant parking rules face revamp

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Longboat Key Commissioners voted 6-1 to move forward with a new parking ordinance, which requires one parking space per 150 square feet of building space in a restaurant. 

Planning and Building Department staff explained to the commission that the Planning and Zoning Board reached consensus to have one parking space per 150 square feet of dining area, indoor and outdoor. Staff explained that the current ordinance requires one parking space per four seating spaces of diners. The Planning and Zoning Board wanted to change the ordinance to a square footage parking requirement.

Town Commissioners approved the first reading of the ordinance, with the caveat that they would review the minutes of the Planning and Zoning Board’s meeting wherein the 150 square feet number was discussed and recommended.

At first, Commissioner Ken Schneier thought that the number of 150 square feet per parking space recommended by the Planning and Zoning Board may have missed something in the analysis. However, as he listened to the explanation given to the commission by former Planning and Zoning Board Chair BJ Bishop, he decided to move forward with the ordinance.

“I’m wondering what the rationale is to go to 150 square feet v. 75?” asked Schneier.

Bishop responded, “Seventy-five feet is almost untenable. It would almost eliminate any restaurant being able to build on this island unless you’re going to put it in the Publix parking lot and take parking from a few extra shops. We felt 300 square feet would put us in the same problem we have now. We felt 150 was a reasonable place to be.”

“Personally, I feel better about the work that has been done here by the Planning and Zoning Board, and the appropriateness of it. I would approve this motion, but I’d like to review the minutes of the P&Z, and we could always revisit it the second time around but I don’t see a reason to postpone it now,” said Schneier.

Other commissioners questioned the square footage requirement number also.

Commissioner Mike Haycock said, “I can not quite make the decision without more information.”

Commissioner Jack Daly, said, “P&Z recommended 75 vs. 150. Why?”

Vice Mayor Ed Zunz said, “I also had a problem figuring out what is the right number based on what information was given to us. I think the Planning Board needs to communicate to us so what we know what they are trying to do.”

Bishop said, “This is the P&Z board’s ordinance. We spent a long and considerable time on this issue. And I want to thank commissioners who took time to be present for the two workshop sessions for what we did and why…This is what we thought would be reasonable, you’ve got to cover your service staff, your kitchen staff. If you don’t remedy this, you will continue to possibly make the problem even more severe if a new restaurant were to render an application. We believe the language in the new legislation to be responsible and speaks to the needs of this community.”

The Planning and Zoning Department staff also confirmed the consensus of the Planning and Zoning Board meeting. Staff said that the Board wanted to find balance between what the town has now and to not provide a burden for future restaurants. The Planning and Zoning Board considered what staff proposed, and they considered what the City of Venice’s ordinances were, and decided on what the City of Sarasota had which is one parking space per 150 square feet.

Commissioners also questioned what would happen to existing restaurants, and whether they would be non-compliant if the ordinance gets passed.

Schneier asked, “If we were to adopt this, would we be making existing restaurants nonconforming?”

Longboat Key Town Attorney Maggie Mooney said, “That’s correct, it would make existing restaurants nonconforming, however, it would only apply to new seating requests or new restaurants.”

Haycock asked Mooney if an existing restaurant wanted to modernize, would they need to conform to the new parking ordinance.

Mooney said, “It would depend on what they are asking for. If it’s more seats, then the answer is yes. If they’re just modernizing, they should have the ability to maintain their existing entitlements.”

Commissioner Randy Clair asked, “How will it affect the St. Regis and Key Club?”

Mooney said, “The St. Regis has met its development order of 2018. The Club will be able to use our current ordinance provisions depending on the timing of the application; much like the Buccaneer.”

The new parking ordinance passed 6-1 on first reading, with Vice Mayor Zunz dissenting.

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