Landscaping business wants to rebuild its Gulf Bay Road operation.
In Longboat Key, commercial zoning is a difficult concept.
Neighbors have ideas of what they want to see done with the land; the town has specific guidelines on how to validate and make official the land’s use; the business owner has to find a balance between achieving their goals, assuaging residents and staying within town regulations.
Grant’s Gardens is not an exception.
Work to be done
The landscape gardening company, founded in 2000, is based in Sarasota, but also operates at 524 Gulf Bay Road. This is where Grant’s is looking to rezone from a C-1 zone district to a C-2 zone district, which means instead of being a retail-type operation, its aim is to be more of a landscape maintenance business.
“A retail establishment is something that's allowed in the particular zone district that they’re in,” Planning, Zoning & Building Director Allen Parsons said. “They’re in a zone district called C-1, a commercial designation. But a landscape-maintenance business is not something that’s identified in that zone district.”
Danielle Beatt, Grant’s Chief Financial Officer, outlined the business’s plans in an interview:
- Renovating the original building, an original from the late-1970s. Young’s Landscaping had occupied the building for years before Grant’s purchased the property in 2005. According to Beatt, it needs a new roof, air conditioning and a new floor;
- Improved parking for a better flow of traffic;
- Reduced visibility of the business from the road;
- Reorienting the building so that employees can park in a way that’s less obstructive, and;
- Allow for parking underneath the building.
As Parsons wrote in an email to the town following a public meeting (which didn’t draw any attendants) held by Grant’s, “Preliminary plans for the property include redevelopment of the property, including an adjacent parcel, with a newly designed building and site layout. Preliminary plans indicate the applicants will be seeking approval of Variances, along with Special Exception and Site Plan approval.”
Grant’s will not be adding more land to what they have already, it's only reworking it to better suit its purposes, Beatt said.
Parsons also noted that anything in Longboat involving a change in zoning requires a change to the town’s future land use map.
What prompted change?
Parsons said there was an initial code enforcement action against Grant’s having to do with parking of their vehicles on the street. The company addressed the issue, but it was apparent that over time its use had morphed from a retail establishment.
Beatt maintains the chief impetus for rezoning didn’t have to do with any sort of pressure from the town or neighbors.
“It's something we've been planning for several years that we were going to have to renovate that building,” Beatt said. “And when we got into that process, we found out that, in order to do anything on that property, we were going to have to rezone.”
Beatt did recognize complaints, which she said Grant’s had never received until about six months ago. Parsons confirmed such complaints and said they had to do with the daily movement and arrangement of vehicles.
“We are aware that there is a property owner who is unhappy with us,” Beatt said. But: “We’ve talked to a lot of the property owners who are not unhappy with us. They actually find us to be good neighbors.”
“Good neighbors” was a constant refrain of Beatt’s, who made certain to emphasize Grant’s view of its role as community partners.
“I think that's part of the goal of our new building; we created a design of a building that looks like a home; it's not going to be out of step with the other houses in the neighborhood,” Beatt said. “And we're not trying to make it look like some commercial building that just got plopped into this land.”
On Friday, Sept. 6, the town received Grant's rezoning and comprehensive plan amendment application. This application goes in front of the town’s development review committee. If the committee signs off, the process moves to public hearings. The proposal could then move to the Planning & Zoning Board in October then the Town Commission possibly before the end of the year.
While Beatt knows variables are at play, the company’s goal is to be through the zoning process by spring so that when the snowbirds head north, it can do the renovation with the least amount of disruption.
“My hope is that we would be completed by October 2020,” Beatt said.