LPA Approves Crescent St. Parking Lot

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After a false start last week when it was discovered at their regular meeting time that the meeting had not been legally noticed, the LPA held its November meeting on November 17th with two new members.

Suzanne Katt and Bruce Butcher were appointed last month by Town Council to the LPA to fill seats previously occupied by Chuck Bodenhafer and John Kakatsch. Katt and Butcher were welcomed by Chair Hank Zuba.

Zuba and the LPA prepared Proclamations recognizing Bodenhafer and Katatsch for their years of service to the community and LPA.

The primary agenda item was a request regarding a parking lot at 140-150 Crescent Street. The lot has been a seasonal lot and the request before the LPA was for a Special Exception and Variances plus a Rezoning Request to convert the lot to a permanent parking lot.

Greg Stuart of Stuart & Associates, representing the applicant John Richard, explained that the request would transition a temporary parking lot into a full time permanent lot with 50 spaces. Approval would eliminate the split zoning of the property – 30-50 feet of the northern edge of the property is zoned RM or Residential Multi, while the remainder is zoned Downtown.

The property was permitted as a seasonal lot last spring.

A 0.4-acre permanent parking lot, he explained, would be consistent with the Town’s Comp Plan that calls for more downtown parking and ‘park once’ parking. Stuart also explained that the permanent lot would also be consistent with Town Council’s stated objective to move away from seasonal parking lots in preference for permanent lots that can be regulated as to landscaping, lighting and signage.

In addition to rezoning the portion of the lot that is RM, the request included variances. One of those would allow a 1-foot buffer at the street right of way with a fence than a 15 ft. buffer. They also asked for no buffer on the Ray’s Pizza side of the property. The adjoining property is built to the lot line there. A variance to landscaping requirements and a wall height of 8’ rather than 6’ were requested.

John Richard spoke, handing LPA members copies of a petition holding 120 signatures that he explained were from fellow business people and neighbors on the island supporting his plans for the lot.

He referred to the San Carlos Master Plan dating to February 1999, which urged the area to set a positive image for the town, encouraging investors to reinvest in properties and translate the area into a vibrant district of the town.

LPA member Joann Shamp asked about handicapped parking, a pedestrian walkway and storm water drainage.

Stuart agreed that the walkway was an excellent idea, but he didn’t think the lot was required to provide a handicapped space, but would investigate. The lot would have drainage storage underneath the lot that will hold the water for 3 days.

Shamp and others commented on the need for a physical barrier between the parking spaces and the canal and Stuart agreed that bollards could be placed there.

LPA member Bruce Butcher commented that the picket fence currently at the lot is “tacky” and he would prefer landscaping. He also wanted the lot designated a “high-turnover” lot which would require paving.

At the gathering on November 10th, several residents offered their opinions on the request. Tracey Gore, a resident of Primo St, praised the Town’s “award-winning Comp Plan’ and urged the LPA to follow it. She said she and others in her neighborhood are not against development or progress; they just want the Comp Plan followed.

Fran Santini, noting that she has lived on Primo since 1935, spoke against rezoning of any Crescent St. property.

“There’s been enough commercial intrusion on Crescent.”

Christine Patton of Primo spoke on Nov 10th in favor of the ground level parking lot, but against any rezoning. She also wanted to limit hours and asked for a buffer along the canal. She spoke again on Nov 17th noting she had a few more concerns, but still was against rezoning. She wondered how the property which used to be three lots had become two.

“Once the land is commercial, he can do whatever he wished with the lots.”

Dick Swenson of Primo Dr. pointed out that when the applicant refers to neighbors, he’s referring only to those on Crescent, not across the canal on Primo. He was also displeased that the applicant gets unlimited time to present his request, while neighbors are limited to 5 minutes each during public comment.

Dave Ennis of Primo Dr. commented that quite a few people have left the island because of all the changes. He said he was not against the parking lot, but was against the zoning change.

Jeannette Swenson of Primo spoke against the lot, saying that property values will drop.

“I notice that our island is disintegrating. Is this going to turn into a little Miami? I see it slowly being destroyed. Will the values go down on our street so I can only sell to a bunch of druggies? And it will slowly move down the island. We have enough problems with the bars-people laying in the street, fistfights. With parking, it will be the same thing.”

Ed Scott spoke about his grievances with another parking lot downtown, sidewalks and the lack of Town response to his complaints, calling into question the truthfulness of Town staff’s testimony. After LPA attorney Dawn Lehnert reminded him that the hearing was solely for the zoning and variances for 140-150 Crescent St, he sat down.

Jo List, a Crescent St. resident and next door neighbor to the lot in question, spoke at the Nov 10th and Nov 17th meeting, saying that she welcomed the permanent parking lot. As a tenant of Richard’s, she said she knows how he maintains his properties. She spoke of the difficulty in anyone doing anything on that lot due to the conflicting zoning designations and urged the LPA to approve the requests.

After lengthy discussion over hours, paving, landscaping and fencing the LPA settled on a motion that won support for rezoning of the property by a 5-2 vote.

They then passed a Special Exception request that included landscaping of the center section, bollards, landscaping along the canal, a walkway and ADA compliance with protective stops for parking spaces adjacent to the canal. The first version of the motion that included limited hours of 7am-11pm and required paving was voted down with just 2 LPA members voting yea. A second version without hours limitations and required paving, passed 5-2. The Variance request was then passed 7-0.

In additional business the LPA passed a Land Development Code Amendment deleting section 34-2022 Seasonal Parking Lots from the code. Principal Planner Matt Noble explained that Town Council had indicated that they wanted to do away with seasonal lots and urged owners of those lots to move toward becoming permanent lots. Currently Noble explained there were two pending seasonal lot applications, 2440 Estero Blvd and 150 Crescent St, which was addressed at this meeting.

Due to the length of the meeting, the planned Review of Elements for the Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) was postponed to the next LPA meeting.

Missy Layfield