Centre Shops owner Don Roberts want to expand the list of uses that are allowed in his shopping center because he has had to turn away potential tenants that town codes currently prohibit.
“This just gives us more flexibility when somebody approaches me about leasing space in the center,” said Roberts, who explained he had to turn away a tenant who wanted to create an exercise studio that’s not allowed under town code.
But the request for an amendment to the planned unit development (PUD) that encompasses the shopping center and the nine homeowners in neighboring Sandhamn Place was met with some resistance from the neighbors at Tuesday’s Sept. 21 Planning and Zoning Board regular meeting.
Three Sandhamn Place residents took to the podium to tell planning board members they want to continue their positive relationship with The Centre Shops, but can’t support some of the suggested changes.
Specifically, Sandhamn Place residents have an issue with the town allowing any more restaurants than the three that currently exist in the center and don’t want any sort of pet-grooming business or veterinary clinic.
Sandhamn Place Homeowners Association President Richard Perlman explained that five of the nine homes abut a drainage pond that has constant runoff from grease trays and food mats cleaned by restaurant employees near the pond.
The homeowners, Perlman said, also have a major raccoon problem that’s exacerbated by the fact that restaurant employees constantly leave dumpsters uncovered.
“We are not here to mess up the good working relationship we have,” Perlman said. “But our concerns are environmental ones and we don’t want any more establishments in the center that involve food.”
And any sort of pet business, Perlman, said, will only increase contamination of the pond with pet feces and hair.
Sandhamn Point resident Donna Pettinato, a 12-year resident of the community, told the planning board her community has spent thousands of dollars to clean up the pond monthly.
“The problems we have come from the Centre Shops, which has never paid one penny to help us,” Pettinato said.
The issues raised by the residents that live just south of the plaza garnered sympathy from some planning board members, even though they had nothing to do with the agenda item brought forward by town staff.
“It seems to me we have a management problem at The Centre Shops,” said planning board member Allen Hixon. “If management could control the dumpsters and the cleaning of major grease pans outside, there wouldn’t be any issues.”
Planning board member Patricia Zunz agreed, making a motion to approve the amendment, as long as it removed any veterinary service options and only allowed additional food service facilities, if management addressed the trash and stormwater runoff issues.
The motion prompted Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson to try and get the board back on track.
“We are focused here today with considering alternative uses for this center,” said Simpson, who suggested the town’s Code Enforcement Department could deal with the issues raised by residents. “While these are legitimate concerns, they are not up for consideration today.”
Simpson also told the board that the new suggested uses would only be approved in the future if a proposed tenant came forward and the planning board and, possibly, the Town Commission approved the new use.
But the majority of the planning board didn’t care, even though Simpson tried to explain it wasn’t the board’s issue to resolve.
“I disagree,” said planning board member George Symanski Jr. “Zoning conditions can ensure this all goes together.”
Zunz’s motion was approved by a vote of 6-2. Chairwoman B.J. Webb and Hixon voted against the motion. Planning board member John Wild was absent from the meeting.
Simpson told the board the town’s code enforcement officers would also investigate the issues presented by residents, who were also urged to file a complaint and call the police department when violations occur.
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