To one extent, it really doesn’t come as a surprise. Longbeach Village residents flooded Longboat Key town commissioners with emails over the past weekend, begging commissioners to rescind their May 6 approval of the Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub’s site-plan amendment application.
Indeed, rare is the occasion when Village residents embrace Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant, the Mar Vista or Longboat Key Center for the Arts proposing to move so much as a twig on their properties.
It’s a strange relationship. Village residents frequent and patronize the restaurants and Arts Center, but woe unto these institutions if they attempt to grow or improve their facilities. Villagers protest.
For observers, it seems as if they want time to stand still. We get it. They want to preserve the Village’s “Old Florida” feel. But it also seems illogical. Typically, property enhancements improve property values.
But here’s the real concern: Some protestors don’t want the Mar Vista to add seats to its restaurant or add a second-story dining area. And virtually all of the protestors don’t want owner Ed Chiles to renovate and open the second floor of the adjacent Jordan House to private meetings for the simple reason they don’t want more cars driving and parking in their neighborhood.
This brings us to history. Perhaps most Villagers know this, but the Mar Vista and Jordan House are two of
Longboat’s most historic treasures. Rufus Jordan built all but one of the concrete-block, historic homes in Longbeach Village in the 1910s. The Jordan House is one of the 12 oldest surviving structures on Longboat Key. In the 1940s, it was converted to a rental apartment.
And then there’s the Mar Vista restaurant and pub. In the late 1940s, it operated as a fish camp, selling bait, tackle and beer. When Charlotte and Ed Sibole bought the Mar Vista in 1950, they expanded the pub and began selling burgers and other dishes.
Chiles acquired the property in the late 1980s and has been operating the restaurant ever since. He closed down the Jordan House apartments and has used — we would say underutilized — the historic house as office space.
Throughout these 66 years, the Jordans, Siboles and Chiles have preserved the history and “Old Florida” ambience of the Jordan House and Mar Vista. We’d say they — especially Chiles — have been responsible neighbors and stewards of two important historical treasures on Longboat Key.
We get it. Village residents don’t want traffic; they want a quiet neighborhood. But for more than six decades, fishermen with boats and Longboat residents and tourists have been dining and enjoying two of this region’s most historic restaurants at the end of Broadway — the Mar Vista and Moore’s.
And twice a year, when Mar Vista hosts a Fourth of July fireworks celebration and a fundraiser for the Longboat Key Historical Society, the larger-than-usual number of diners causes many of them to park in the public right of way in front of nearby homes. Public right of way. Twice a year.
It’s not as if this should be a surprise to the Villagers.
Now comes Chiles’ application to improve and slightly expand his property. Villagers seem to have visions far beyond what the town has allowed.
To begin, we would recommend you read the accompanying text. Resolution 2013-12 expressly says that with all the conditions required by the town the Mar Vista application conforms to town codes.
What’s more, read what is required of Mar Vista. The conditions are such that if Chiles hosted raucous parties; brought in too many people to dine and use the Jordan House meeting space; or caused overbearing parking problems in the surrounding neighborhood, the town has the right to reduce his restaurant’s seating and revoke his site-plan amendment.
We hope the commissioners don’t capitulate. We understand the neighbors’ concerns. The Mar Vista has historic precedence. A thriving, improving Mar Vista adds value to the Village and Longboat Key.
TOWN COMMISSION’S RULING ABOUT MAR VISTA
The following is what the Town Commission adopted in Resolution 2013-12:
WHEREAS, the Planning and Zoning Board has reviewed the Application and has recommended to the Town Commission with its findings that the proposed development be approved with conditions;
WHEREAS, the Town Commission makes these conclusions and findings of fact:
a) With the recommended conditions of approval the plan is consistent with the comprehensive plan, and the purpose and intent of the zoning district in which it is located.
b) With the recommended conditions of approval, the plan is in conformance with all applicable regulations of the zoning district in which it is located.
c) With the recommended conditions of approval, the plan is in conformance with the Town’s subdivision regulations, Chapter 157, and all other applicable Town requirements, including the design, adequacy, utility facilities and other essential services.
d) With the recommended conditions of approval, the plan is consistent with good design standards in respect to all external relationships, including but not limited to relationship to adjoining properties; internal circulation, both vehicular and pedestrian; disposition and use of open space, provision of screening and buffering, and preservation of existing natural features, including trees; size and apparent bulk of structures; and building arrangements both between buildings in the proposed development and those adjoining the site.
e) With the recommended conditions of approval, the plan is in conformance with town policy with respect to sufficiency of ownership, guarantees for completion of all required improvements and continued maintenance.
REQUIREMENTS MAR VISTA MUST MEET
Here are excerpts of the 27 conditions the Mar Vista must meet to expand and open the second-floor of the Jordan house:
2) The second-story outdoor dining area located on the restaurant located at 760 Broadway with 1,978 square feet and a maximum of 60 seats shall be limited to the dimensions and location delineated on the submitted plans.
3) No more than 60 seats shall be placed in the second-story covered outdoor dining area.
4) No more than 62 seats shall be placed in the first-floor covered porch outdoor dining area.
5) No more than 46 seats shall be placed in the uncovered ground level outdoor dining area …
13) The private meeting room and second-story deck on the existing office/storage building located north of the restaurant building cannot have dining seating and is not considered an outdoor dining area. It is restricted to private functions with limited service of hor d’oeuvres and drinks.
14) The hours of operation for the outdoor dining areas and private meeting room shall not be before or extend beyond the hours of operation of the associated indoor dining area. However, regardless of the hours of operation of the indoor dining area and because the restaurant property is within 250 feet of residential property, the hours of operation for the outdoor dining area shall not begin before 11:30 a.m. and extend beyond 10 p.m.
15) No music or amplified voices shall be allowed in the outdoor dining areas or private meeting room. Noise shall not be audible more than 50 feet from the property boundary and shall otherwise be in accordance with Section 130.02, Loud and Unnecessary Noise, of the town code, as may be amended.
16) All lighting used in conjunction with the outdoor dining areas and private meeting room shall be designed and installed in a manner to avoid glare being directed toward a public or private right-of-way, adjacent property and the Gulf of Mexico pursuant to Chapter 100 of the Town Code, Sea Turtles, as may be amended.
17) The outdoor dining areas and private meeting room shall be screened from all adjacent properties and rights-of-way. The required landscaped screening shall comply with the standards contained in Section 158.154(A) (1) and (2), except that the required screening in a street or waterfront yard shall have a maximum height of three feet and the required screening in the side, rear or non-required yards shall have a maximum height of six feet above the finished floor of the outdoor dining area. In addition, the required screening shall be at least 80% opaque.
20) Staff shall monitor the off-street parking needs of the property during all hours of operation and should the planning and zoning official determine, in accordance with 158.128 (M)(1)(a) of the town code, that the off-street parking for the land use is insufficient, then the planning and zoning official may require sufficient additional off-street parking be obtained through an allowable means and may require that the outdoor dining seating be reduced to proportionately decrease parking demands. Any additional off-street parking and reduction in outdoor dining seats required shall be in effect within 90 days of the planning and zoning official’s determination. Failure to comply with the planning and zoning official’s determination within the 90-day period shall result in a review, revision or revocation of the site plan amendment by the planning and zoning board.
27) A landscape buffer approved by the Planning, Zoning, and Building Department staff with minimum heights up to 14 feet and 30% opacity at installation shall be added along western facade of the restaurant building, located between the parking lot and the building.