Vol 6 No. 3 - October 12, 2005

Stone crabs in, Moore’s out?

Moore’s Stone Crab owners want to change the restaurant’s zoning from commercial to single family residential.
By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

LONGBOAT KEY – Saturday marks the beginning of what could be the last stone crab season for Moore’s 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 to residential.

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, is down.

Meanwhile, he hopes the rezoning will increase the property’s 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. "We’re 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.

Moore’s request triggered the town commission’s vote on an ordinance to put the proposal on the town’s 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.

"They’re asking permission to get permission," Jeglie said, explaining that the town requires a referendum to increase the density of a property’s 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.

That’s not what Moore has in mind. If the commission approves the change, he will promptly sell the property, he said.

Before voting in favor of the request, Commissioner Lee Rothenberg expressed mixed feelings. With the recent closure of a half-dozen restaurants, "It’s one of the few waterfront restaurants we still have in town," he said. "But we can’t force them to stay in business."

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