The Sarasota County Commission agreed Tuesday to consider extending the sunset date of a special-event permit available to restaurants and bars within the Siesta Key Overlay District. The permit allows outdoor events during pre-approved holidays.
County commissioners unanimously approved a measure to authorize a public hearing to consider extending the ordinance, pushing back its expiration date from June 8, 2014, to June 8, 2016. Tuesday's measure also waived the requirement for a Planning Commission public hearing and the requirement for an Economic Impact Statement (EIS).
The temporary-use permit dates back to 2011, when county staff worked with representatives from the Siesta Key Association, the Siesta Key Merchants Association, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and Siesta neighborhood associations to develop the ordinance, which specified major holidays for which temporary permits may be issued, within designated hours.
The ordinance had an initial sunset date of June 8, 2012, which was one year from the date of approval. The commission subsequently extended it for two years.
On Tuesday, the County Commission also considered expanding the holidays covered in the ordinance to include Halloween. Since its 2011 adoption, no temporary-use permits have been issued under the ordinance. There was one application received for a haunted house to be held at the Beach Club; it was denied, however, because Halloween was not an approved holiday for the permit to be used.
“Any time the county extends a helping hand or is open to new ideas that is a positive thing,” said Chris Brown, owner of The Beach Club.
Although the commission unanimously approved Tuesday’s move, two commissioners pressed to gauge the reaction of Siesta residents before making a final decision.
“In 2011 there was a lot of angst over this,” County Commissioner Christine Robinson said. “I really would like to see this brought to SKA. I don't want to take anyone by surprise with this.”
County Commissioner Nora Patterson said she would take the proposal to upcoming SKA and SKVA meetings to gauge whether opinion on the Key is for or against extending the duration and scope of the ordinance.
“It is sort of strange that the permit hasn't been used,” Patterson said. “I'll bring back to the board any feedback I get.”
Brown said that if the ordinance is ultimately amended to include Halloween, he would begin plans to hold the haunted house this year.
“If it does get approved, we have to start planning accordingly,” he said.
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