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Longboat Key Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2019 3 months ago

Longboat planning board denies Shore's sidewalk request

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Shore restaurant owner Tom Leonard rescinded the petition almost immediately following the meeting.
by: Sten Spinella Staff Writer

Longboat Key’s Planning & Zoning Board voted to recommend denying 800 Broadway LLC’s petition to vacate a right of way – or sidewalk – along the property in order to add approximately 14 parking spaces to its Shore restaurant in Longbeach Village. The under-construction restaurant has a confirmed 55 parking spaces.

Speaking for Planning, Zoning and Building staff, Director Allen Parsons opposed the petition and recommended the board do the same. Chair B.J. Bishop said the Town Commission would consider the proposal at its July 1 meeting. But soon after the meeting adjourned, Stephen Rees, the attorney for Shore restaurant owner Tom Leonard, emailed Planning, Zoning and Building staff notifying them that Leonard had chosen to rescind the petition, effectively removing it from the Town Commission's July 1 agenda. 

Before Tuesday morning’s meeting, residents were concerned the restaurant would overtake a residential area with parking overflow. Leonard tried to assuage these concerns, presenting a plan to vacate the sidewalk, with the help of Icard Merrill attorney Rees.

“It comes down to you convincing us that it’s in the town’s best public interest that we do this,” board member David Green said. “I still need to hear more from you about why you think this is in the public interest as opposed to your private interest.”

"It comes down to you convincing us that it’s in the town’s best public interest that we do this." – David Green

“There’s a problem with parking on the streets,” Leonard responded. “If we can keep more cars on our lot, we can control that using valet, using a reservation system, and maximizing our property, then it’s a benefit to everyone.”

 Brian and Karen Feeney, a couple who live across from The Shore restaurant property, both spoke against the proposal.

“We do applaud the effort of Mr. Leonard,” Karen Feeney said. But: “It’s such a bad precedent for a town to give away a right of way.”

Bishop said she agreed.

“I greatly appreciate Mr. Leonard and the restaurant coming forward, trying to find a solution to what is a serious and ongoing problem with parking in the Village,” Bishop said. But “as a precedent, I will never vacate a right of way owned by the town. It is public property. It is the taxpayers’ property. It is ours for a number of uses, be it utilities, be it future issues.”

Board member Phillip Younger summed up the issue.

“If ever there were a classic Catch-22 situation, this is it,” Younger said.

Sten Spinella is a Town Hall Reporter for the Longboat Observer. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut and his master's degree from the University of Missouri. 

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