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Longboat Key Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019 6 months ago

Office, parking lot plan moves ahead on Longboat

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Planning & Zoning Board approve 98-parking spots, 300-square foot office on GMD for employees, patrons.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

The town’s Planning & Zoning Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan from the owner of Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant to build a 300-square foot office and 98 parking spaces about 1,800 feet down Broadway Street from the popular waterfront eatery.

Because the proposal fits into land-use and other town requirements, the approval is final, meaning the Chiles Group can proceed with plans for building permits, said engineer Lynn Burnett, owner and principal of LTA Engineers, who designed the project.

Acknowledging the out-of-the-ordinary combination of a 20 foot by 15 foot office, site-built to FEMA standards with utilities and surrounded on three sides with enough parking for a far-larger building, Burnett said the plan was an expedient way to help solve a persistent neighborhood street-parking and traffic problem.

“I’ve been working on this process and this project with Longboat Key folks for a very long time, and it has always been about to trying to bring solutions, not to bring problems,’’ she said. “The permitted and allowable use on this property, it could be a lot of things.”

She said one idea was to seek a new long-term use of the land to build a standalone parking lot, but the worry was the time required to do so. “We could get to a short-term solution if we come in with a small office as a principal use, accessory parking and a restaurant owner who is willing to invest in the infrastructure for a tram,’’ she said.

Board member David Lapovsky, who like many of his colleagues said he reluctantly supported the plan and voted to approve, called the plan “a parking lot pretending to be an office.’’

The idea is to require employees, who now largely park on the street in Longbeach Village, to park in the lot and to encourage patrons of the restaurant to make the 6920 Gulf of Mexico Drive site their first and only stop, riding a solar-charged electric cart down Broadway Street and back. The lot is designed with permeable paving, which Burnett said would absorb stormwater run off and automotive pollutants in a layer of replaceable sand and rock. 

Five Longbeach Village residents and a former resident spoke out against the project, raising the issues of more, not less, traffic, harm done to the environment and the possible safety concerns of a multi-passenger electric cart on a public road. A hotel, the density for which was voted down in 2016, was once proposed for the same land and an adjacent parcel to the north.  

Longbeach Village resident Michael Drake said in his 35 years living on Longboat Key, he’s never seen “such a ridiculous thing.’’

“They say that they are trying to do good things for our community, specifically for my neighborhood,’’ he said. “Unbelievably untrue. To have this community approve a parking lot on Gulf of Mexico Drive with a 300 square foot building, folks, not in anyone’s right mind would this be a sustainable thing to do on the entire key. Not on the entire 10½ miles of paradise. Just can’t happen. There’s got to be other alternatives.’’

Planning & Zoning members said the facts of the application made voting against it in the quasi-judicial setting difficult.

Phill Younger questioned the notion of the parking lot reducing traffic along Broadway Street, instead suggesting traffic might increase with the back and forth of the shuttle and patrons who might first drive to the restaurant and only to backtrack until they either parked in the lot or along the street.

“I think the logic of this sounds good,’’ he said, though questioning some of the details. “I’m not sure if this is going to help the traffic situation on Broadway. I think there's a tendency to drive to the restaurant. “

Board Chair BJ Bishop said the project as submitted was “not a perfect solution,” and acknowledged there is no requirement for the Chiles Group to provide extra parking beyond the town’s standards, which the company meets.

“The perfect solution is Mar Vista is on a five-acre site and they have all the parking they wanted around them, and there was so much landscaping around them you couldn’t see the building in the village, but that’s not reality. “

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