Two public hearings came before Sanibel Planning Commission Tuesday. One variance for a replacement boat dock and lift sailed through the hearing while the other for a 24-seat restaurant addition at Periwinkle Place became more contentious.
Periwinkle Place owners Dahlmann Periwinkle Place LP applied for three variances to the Land Development Code along with a conditional use permit - because it is a restaurant - and a development permit to construct a building addition for said unnamed fast-food restaurant.
Since it was constructed prior to the current Sanibel Code commercial district standards, Periwinkle Place is a nonconforming building with current flood regulations, parking requirements, floor area ratio, landscape buffer, impermeable coverage and developed area limitations requiring the variances.
Landscaping buffer improvements along Periwinkle Way in front of Periwinkle Place were recommended as a condition of approval for a restaurant addition project proposed for space formerly occupied by Pandora's in the front of the center core building.
The project proposes to construct a building addition with 1,310 square feet of floor area. Because of the developed area limitations, applicants proposed to abandon 1,313 square feet of commercial space to actually lessen the developed area and remove 2,376 square feet of impermeable surfaces.
One condition recommended by staff included adding interconnectivity access to the neighboring Forever Green center.
Staff and property owners disagree on the interconnectivity, landscape buffer and how the floor space abandonment would be achieved.
Attorney Steven Hartsell, representing the owner/applicant, contended the conditions recommended by staff are not necessary.
"All we are trying to do is replace what once was an ice cream parlor that no longer exists and make a new remodeled area in the core building, upgrade and modernize," said Hartsell. "Staff wants the (upstairs) loft space floorboards removed as well as an upstairs storage area flooring in the remodel in order to verify non-use. It is our position that removing the stairs to the loft and converting a door to a window is sufficient to make the space inaccessible for commercial use. Removing floorboards would weaken the building to horizontal wind damage."
Center owners vehemently object to the interconnectivity access for various reasons, including the fact that it is not currently required in the code. Interconnectivity, however, is being discussed by the city and planners as part of their commercial redevelopment project which still has a long way to go to set definitions and standards.
"In fact, my client told me that they would not have started this process had they known in advance that interconnectivity would be part of the conditions," said Hartsell. "There already is a shared use path access between the centers. Our proposal has no increase to the floor area, covered or developed areas and there is no adverse effect to the traffic flow off-site due to this project. As a matter of fact, the project is consistent with the city's goal to improve commercial space."
After Hurricane Charley in 2004, Periwinkle Place ownership refused "free" vegetation replacement in the buffer zone, keeping is below the new recommended standards.
"I don't think they want to be counterproductive with the buffers," said Hartsell. "Visibility is a top priority for businesses who want to be seen by the public."
Chuck Ketteman was the first commissioner to suggest the application should not be held to the interconnectivity recommendation because there is none in the code currently.
"I will make a motion that the applicant work with staff and come to an agreement on the variances for the floor area and landscaping with no interconnectivity required at this time," Ketteman said.
After a couple of clarifications to the intent and wording of the motion, the application was approved by a 5-2 vote with the stipulation that the site plan be revised to show the floor space solution and landscaping plan and brought back for final approval, or rejection, at the Nov. 12 commission meeting. Commissioners Phil Marks and Tom Krekel were the dissenting votes.