By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
LONGBOAT KEY Saturday marks the beginning of what
could be the last stone crab season for Moores Stone
Crab Restaurant on Longboat Key.
Longboat Key commissioners voted unanimously Monday night
to allow the owners of the landmark waterfront eatery to
begin the process of rezoning the property from commercial
Earlier this summer, Alan Moore requested a change to residential
single-family use, which is limited to a maximum of four
homes per acre. The property is less than one acre, reducing
the allowed number of homes to three.
Moore said he has no immediate plans to sell the restaurant,
but added that the sale is inevitable.
"There will be a time when we leave," he told
commissioners, adding that tourism, and thus, business,
Meanwhile, he hopes the rezoning will increase the propertys
value, allowing him to get a loan to build a waterfront
outdoor deck to attract more customers.
"It costs $3,400 a day to stay in business" without
food costs, said Moore, whose family has run the restaurant
for four decades. "Were asking for a chance to
be able to hang in a little longer."
The vote was the first of several steps required to change
the zoning, and was an alternative to a procedure that requires
700 signatures on a petition.
Moores request triggered the town commissions
vote on an ordinance to put the proposal on the towns
March ballot, which will give residents a vote on the issue,
said Jill Jeglie, planning, zoning and building director
for the Town of Longboat Key.
The procedure is unusual, she said.
"Theyre asking permission to get permission,"
Jeglie said, explaining that the town requires a referendum
to increase the density of a propertys use more than
that allowed by the 1984 future land use map.
"The process could be onerous in that you have to see
what the vote of the public is going to be" before
making any business plans, she said.
With the approval of the ordinance on Monday, residents
will vote on it in March. If it passes, it will go the planning
and zoning board, then to the town commission, she said.
Neither the board nor the commission is obligated to approve
the request, Town Attorney David Persson said.
If the proposal makes it through all the steps and the property
is changed to residential, the owners could still operate
the restaurant as a grandfathered non-conforming use until
they decide to sell, Jeglie said.
Thats not what Moore has in mind. If the commission
approves the change, he will promptly sell the property,
Before voting in favor of the request, Commissioner Lee
Rothenberg expressed mixed feelings. With the recent closure
of a half-dozen restaurants, "Its one of the
few waterfront restaurants we still have in town,"
he said. "But we cant force them to stay in business."