At their May 10th meeting, the Fort Myers Beach Local Planning Agency approved a Special Exception for the Fish Bowl Restaurant to permit outdoor consumption on premise (COP) and expand their outdoor seating. The Fish Bowl, 1167 Estero Boulevard, is the former location of the Surf Club and before that, the Waffle House.
Ronald Yanke of Deep Dish Dough, LLC, owner of the property, was represented by Peter Maastricht, P.E, of Maastricht Engineering who explained that the proposed development includes the construction of a concrete deck and a second floor wood deck for additional outdoor seating. With the existing deck at the property, total outdoor seating would be 2104 square feet. The existing building would be expanded by 943 square feet off the NE corner to expand the kitchen. Modification to the storm drainage would also be done.
Town Principal Planner Matt Noble introduced the staff report by saying that since it was written, the applicant had revised the site plan to include an 8-foot buffer wall and proposed utilization of valet parking. Noble said that as a result, the staff recommendation had changed from denial to approval.
Maastricht told the LPA that owner had agreed to all conditions: the COP would be on the deck only; the deck would be enclosed by a 42” railing; COP service would be limited to the hours of 9am-2am; music would be limited to 11am-9pm; landscaping and outdoor lighting plans would be provided as part of a limited development order; a minimum 8-foot high wall would be included behind the upstairs bar and extended along the eastern wall (adjacent to Silver Sands) and parking provided. The LPA was provided with a site plan showing a total of 31 parking spaces: 9 standard spaces, 13 valet spaces, 3-four bike racks (equal to 3 spaces), 4 boat slips, and 2 motorcycle spaces.
“Our opinion and intention is that this plan will be in compliance; it meets or exceeds all land development codes,” said Maastricht.
LPA members questioned the parking calculations, whether there was room in the canal to put four boats at the existing docks and whether boat slips could be counted as parking. Joanne Shamp wondered if the building had a legal setback from the canal, noting that the canal used to be bulb-shaped and was not now.
Noble told the LPA members that their packet included a legal description of the property and the current owners held ownership to the water’s edge.
During Public Comment, Silver Sands owner Andrea Carriere spoke of her concern that the staff recommendation had been changed from denial to approval and that the expansion would put the building within a few feet of seven of her motel units.
“You can’t build a wall big enough…they are literally from here to there (indicating from the speaker’s podium to the dais) from a bed. It’s just unacceptable and it’s not code.”
Christine Patton expressed concern about the number of people, noise and the environment.
“Back in the old days, Crescent Street used to own that dock, but we gave that up a long time ago when Lee County Commissioners sold it. And then it became an automotive place, then the Waffle House.”
Doris Grant told the LPA that outdoor music was a concern and the canal acts like a megaphone. She was also concerned about the size of boats that wander down the canal and have to back out, as they are too large to turn around.
Carriere asked the LPA to delay a decision until she could hire counsel.
During LPA discussion, Shamp said she joined the rest of LPA in being glad this site was being developed, but felt that they were trying to “squeeze a little too much onto the site.”
I feel Silver Sands has the right to be protected.”
Al Durrett supported considering boat docks as parking.
“I think parking is immaterial. This is a downtown district. I think it’s only common sense that boating be accounted for in parking spots, especially at a restaurant. I just don’t consider parking a big deal.”
Bruce Butcher agreed, “More parking is more left turns on Estero. There’s new parking going in around the corner (on Crescent St.)”
Shamp disagreed. “You may say you don’t care about parking. The concern is about the canal and boats. It if was your house, you’d care. This goes against the LDC and Comp Plan.”
After further discussion, Durrett made a motion to approve the special exception with the seven conditions discussed by Maastricht and listed in the staff report plus an Errata Sheet. The motion passed 4-2 with Shamp and Steele dissenting. The Special Exception will now go to Town Council for another hearing.
Joe McHarris of McHarris Planning and Design along with Tommy Kolar of Lighthouse Resort, presented a preliminary minor amendment to the Commercial Planned Development for the Lighthouse Resort and Tiki Bar. They are requesting the addition of a wall under one building to provide a wind and noise barrier and screen the view of cars, as well as help direct patrons.
The wall would be decorative with 6-inch openings at the top and bottom to allow for wind and water flow. The wall would also have doors and shutters that could be opened to allow air movement. The wall would help maintain a more consistent temperature at the Tiki Bar in winter, according to Kolar.
“It does get a little cold in Florida and the wind whips right through there. There’s nothing blocking the wind and it can get very cold. Our customers have complained about the wind and cold there.”
During Public Comment, Doris Grant questioned where the wall would be located and said she hears sound from the bar now, as she is located right across Crescent St.
This request will be brought back to the LPA at a future meeting.
Post Disaster Recovery & Reconstruction
The LPA has been working on this topic for years, or as Joanne Shamp put it, with four different attorneys, since Town Council first asked them to work on the topic. Shamp distributed materials to LPA members to provide some historical perspective on what had already been discussed.
“There are really several post-disaster stages: Emergency Response-the Town has an ordinance for this already; Clean-Up; Recovery & Mitigation and Redevelopment,” she said.
Shamp added that there is inherent conflict in damage assessment in that after a disaster, it’s in the Town’s best interest to maximize damage to qualify for assistance, but property owners may want to minimize damage to allow rebuilding without triggering the FEMA 50% rule.
Durrett mentioned that Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane was attempting to get the 50% rule changed so that the 50% applies each year rather than every 5 years.
LPA Attorney Dawn Lehnert asked the LPA if the Town Council had asked the LPA to draft an ordinance. Shamp replied that the current council had not, but one from years ago had. Lehnert said that FEMA was in the process of updating their regulations and there already was an ordinance that would go before council soon. Staff was planning to work on the topic also.
LPA Chair Hank Zuba asked Lehnert whether the LPA should drop the subject.
“Are you saying that you don’t think the Town Council wants us to work on this?”
Lehnert replied, “It just seems like more than you should be doing. It’s a lot to ask of an advisory board.”
Zuba suggested that the LPA hold off on further discussion until they get direction from the council.
Meeting as the Historic Preservation Board, the LPA, approved the first four properties for Historic Recognition. See separate story in this issue.