Throughout the holiday week, YourObserver.com will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2009 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers. Check back each day fro a reprinting — and any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED Dec. 10, 2009
Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant & Marina owner Alan Moore said the commission’s decision to move forward a zoning request to a second reading will save his restaurant.
But members of the Longboat Key Town Commission have doubts their approval will save one of Longboat Key’s oldest waterfront restaurants.
At its Monday, Dec. 7 regular meeting, the commission voted 4-3 to move forward plans for a Comprehensive Plan amendment and a zoning request that would change the land the eatery sits on at 800 Broadway from a commercial-zoned property to residential.
Moore said his 43-year-old business would shut down unless the commission approved the request, because, without it, he said he couldn’t get the bank to renegotiate double-digit-interest-rate business loans that are due in January.
“Economic conditions and the changing character of the north end of Longboat Key have created a significant financial burden on the owners of the property,” states Moore in his application.
Peter Dailey, the hired agent for Moore’s property, told the commission that the rezoning of the property from commercial to residential would allow the owners to continue to operate the restaurant while having a sound financial-exit strategy in place, in case the business is no longer financially viable.
But some commissioners said Moore’s finances should not be the basis for granting the zoning request. The Planning and Zoning Board did not recommend the request be moved forward to the commission, mainly for the same reason.
“The Planning and Zoning Board disagreed violently with staff’s recommendation,” said Commissioner George Spoll, who said he believes the change in zoning will bring an end to the restaurant.
Commissioner Jim Brown agreed.
“If we vote for this, I think the restaurant will change overnight, and I don’t think Alan can keep it together,” Brown said.
Commissioners Hal Lenobel and Peter O’Connor strongly disagreed.
“We represent the people and their well-being is in our hands,” said Lenobel, whose comments were met with applause from the 20 Village residents and business owners who supported Moore at the hearing.
O’Connor noted that all planning has an economic component and reminded his fellow commissioners that The Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation-and-expansion project is being proposed based on its economic impact to the community.
Commissioners Spoll, Brown and Mayor Lee Rothenberg voted against the Comprehensive Plan amendment and zoning request. Commissioners Lenobel, O’Connor, Gene Jaleski and Vice Mayor Robert Siekmann voted in favor of the request.
Moore expressed relief that four of the seven commissioners voted to grant the request and told the commission he has no plans to close his restaurant.
“We are putting a lot of money into the restaurant,” Moore said. “We’re not going anywhere because this is our livelihood.”
But Rothenberg questioned Moore’s statement.
“What the commission did last night was double the value of Mr. Moore’s land, where a restaurant sits that’s not doing well financially and will not get better anytime soon during a recession,” Rothenberg said. “My guess is we will be swapping a historic waterfront restaurant on this island for two McMansions in the very near future.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at email@example.com.
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