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Longboat Key Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021 9 months ago

P&Z Board approves Chiles Group's cottage, parking lot plans

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Plans call for the historic cottage to permanently sit at 6920 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board voted on Thursday in favor of allowing a historic cottage to permanently sit just north of Whitney Beach Plaza.

On Thursday morning, the P&Z Board voted 7-0 to approve the Chiles Group’s site amendment plan for 6920 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

“We look forward to seeing you start and complete construction and see the renovated building there,” P&Z chair David Green said.

Lynn Burnett submitted the Chiles Group’s application. LTA Engineers senior planner Sarah Propst presented the application on Thursday to the board.

“The main difference being the size of the building and 10 fewer parking spaces,” Propst said.

The Chiles Group, which owns Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant, plans to permanently place the 1,493-square-foot cottage at the site as a satellite office. The parking lot at the site will have 88 parking spaces. Mar Vista employees will use 24 of the parking spaces and customers can use the remaining 64 spaces.

The new plan replace the previously town-approved plans to build a 98-space parking lot with a 300-square-foot office on the land.

“The reason for the decrease [of parking spaces] is, of course, the building got larger than what was previously approved,” said Longboat Key senior planner Maika Arnold.

During peak times, Mar Vista plans to have its current valet company use a golf cart to take employees and customers between the parking lot and restaurant. The shuttle is set to run from 10 a.m. - 11:30 p.m. along Palm Drive and Broadway Street. The golf cart will charge next to the onsite office when not in use.

The Chiles Group is responsible for maintaining the cottage, where two employees will work on behalf of the company’s human resources department.

“There’s no plan to put more employees in there because there’s more space,” Propst said.

Initially, Propst said the Chiles Group wanted to purchase the smaller of the two cottages that sat at 521 Broadway St. The smaller cottage is still owned by the Longboat Key Historical Society. It now sits at the Town Center site between the Public Tennis Center and the Shoppes of Bay Isles.

In January, the Longboat Key Historical Society moved its smaller historic cottage to the Town Center site.

During Tuesday’s Town Commission workshop meeting, Longboat Key Historical Society President Michael Drake told commissioners the smaller cottage will be permanently set on foundation pilings this week.

“From there, there’ll be a final grade to the earth around the cottage,” Drake said of the smaller cottage. Plumbing and other utility connections will need to be made.

Late last year, the Chiles Group purchased the larger L-shaped cottage from the Longboat Key Historical Society. Both cottages were built in the 1930s and were among the original structures of Whitney Beach.

“I just want to compliment the Chiles Group for purchasing the building,” Green said. “We were uncertain, as a community, what was going to happen to it.

“So, thank you for stepping up to the plate and buying it, from my perspective. And, this a creative and beneficial use given what we’d already approved there.”

Propst said even though the Chiles Group will use the cottage as an office building, there is historic significance as well.

“They did want that specific building because they wanted to preserve a piece of the Longboat Key history,” Propst said. “They want to return it to a more original look, which apparently had an open porch on the front, so there is interest in them doing that. They aren’t intending to change the materials or the outward appearance of the structure.”

The Chiles Group said it would consider potential opportunities for the public to have meetings that have traditionally happened at the historic cottages.

“I hope you’ll follow through on the community relations aspect of it, as opposed to us putting conditions in a development order that don’t seem appropriate from a land-use standpoint,” Green said.

P&Z Board member Jay Plager echoed Green’s sentiments.

“I’d like to echo your point about congratulating these people for trying to preserve a historic building, and I hope, as you expressed, that they will take advantage of that particular reason for making this preserved and available for its purpose,” Plager said.

Burnett said the Chiles Group considered other spots on the property to make the historic cottage more visible to the public. However, they had to make several considerations, including existing mangrove trees at Cedar Street and Palm Avenue. Also, moving the cottage closer to Gulf of Mexico Drive could impede on elevation, buffering and setback requirements.

In January, crews moved the Chiles Group’s cottage from 521 Broadway St. to a temporary foundation on the site with a temporary-use permit.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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