Two applications from the Sundial Beach and Golf Resort came before the Sanibel Planning Commission on May 28 regarding bonus outdoor dining seats and a 400-square-foot kitchen on the ground floor of its non-conforming restaurant.
Commissioners heard the Development Permit application report first to allow 32 bonus outdoor dining seats in the area of the pool deck on the property at 1451 Middle Gulf Drive. The property is non-conforming because the property does not have the required number of parking spaces for the 285 existing restaurant seats, along with other spa and meeting room uses within the complex.
The staff report, delivered by Roy Gibson, concluded the permit merited approval since the additional seating was judged to not increase the need for more parking spaces.
John Naumann, who made the application for ownership, Sanibel Sundial Partners, lined out that the resort has not had parking issues going back a number of years.
"The restaurant usage is 85 percent by on-site residents and guests," Naumann testified. "I think the staff report adequately states the situation."
One resident of Sundial East Condos objected to the application while an email approving the project was placed into evidence with the staff report.
Commissioners decided to add a condition that the actual usage and parking issue be brought back for review in two years before approving the application by a 7-0 vote.
The Conditional Use Permit application to allow a new auxiliary kitchen in the pool area was heard next. The 400 square feet of space designated for the kitchen area currently is used as a video game room for guests.
The staff report, again delivered by Gibson, concluded the kitchen constitutes a non-conforming commercial use outside the city's commercial zone and increases the commercial floor area at the resort as well as has the potential to increase use intensity. Staff recommended denial of the application.
Commissioners had other ideas, maintaining the same square footage was already being used, therefore not an increase, and the kitchen would provide better service to all guests as well as a measure of safety for wait staff who currently must negotiate a set of concrete stairs from the first floor restaurant down to the ground floor pool deck area with trays in hand.
Commissioner Chuck Ketteman stated when he visited the site one server nearly tumbled down the stairs and that was a safety issue in favor of the ground floor kitchen.
Issues of take-out orders from the new kitchen posed a stumbling block for some commissioners.
Naumann again laid those fears to rest with some suggestions.
"It is not intended to be a take-out service," said Naumann. "The only time we allow that is for on-site guests and you can make that a condition if you want to. And we won't allow containers to be taken to the beach. That's not what we intend to accomplish. We will even put up signs, with your approval, at the beach line saying "no take outs."
Commissioners also suggested a waste container at the property line for patrons to use to keep litter off the beach. While the resort is open to the public, Naumann said, very little business walks up off the beach. The majority comes from on-site guests and residents.
"The new owners are spending a lot of money making things work, like the equipment," said Naumann. "The previous owners didn't maintain anything. We want to make things right. We are in this together. We see the Sundial as a poster child for redevelopment."
In the end, commissioners added a provision that the actual usage and parking issues be reviewed at the end of one year and two years.
Commissioners voted 7-0 to approve the permit application over the staff recommendation to reject it. A second hearing, closed to public comment, will be held in at the next commission meeting on June 11.