Outdoor dining snag for Skinny’s
HOLMES BEACH – The restaurant that started it all may have to seek a variance or a zoning change to get more outdoor dining seats.
In February, the Freeman family, owners of Skinny’s Place, appealed to the city commission to increase their outdoor dining seats and introduced petitions with 2,000 signatures of people wanting more outdoor seating. That request led to an ordinance that created a procedure for restaurants to do so.
However, at its first reading last week, the Freemans learned that as owners of one of two nonconforming restaurants in the city, they would have to seek a variance from the Board of Adjustment. Skinny’s is in a residential zoning district making it a nonconforming use, which can’t be expanded without a variance. The Beach Bistro is the other nonconforming restaurant.
"The two most popular restaurants in the city requesting this could be left out of the loop," Commissioner David Zaccagnino remarked.
Estella Freeman told commissioners that she is concerned about going to the Board of Adjustment.
"The Board of Adjustment is the proper procedure for anything that’s grandfathered in," Chair Sandy Haas-Martens explained. "We have to make sure that all the grandfathered properties that are nonconforming don’t become more nonconforming."
Freeman asked what information the board would need for the variance request and City Attorney Patricia Petruff said there is a list in the code, which Freeman could get in the building department.
"Is there a way to do it differently?" Freeman asked.
"You could seek a zoning change," Mayor Rich Bohnenberger offered.
Commissioner John Monetti said he thought they would have a better change of getting a zoning change, and Bohnenberger said he did not see any reason why a zoning change would be denied.
"As a legal nonconforming use, you operate under certain constraints," Petruff explained. "You have some choices to make about how to get yourself out from under those constraints."
Zaccagnino said the city put the constraints on the property owner after the fact, and Petruff pointed out that she did not know when the restaurant was started, when the zoning became residential or how many outdoor seats they had in the past.
"You’re forcing them to change their zoning to have a couple of tables," Zaccagnino continued to protest. "Isn’t there another vehicle we can do?"
"What you suggest would wreak havoc on our nonconforming use policy," Petruff responded. "If we say this nonconforming business gets a pass, what do I say to the next nonconforming business that wants a pass on something else?"
Bohnenberger said without the ordinance, Skinny’s could not seek a variance.
"If the majority of the commission would like to explore another avenue for this particular property, I don’t think it’s proper hold up passage of this ordinance because of the other restaurants (that may want to increase their outdoor seating)," Bohnenberger advised.
Commissioners approved the first reading.
Requirements for expanding a nonconforming use
• The expansion or change of the nonconforming use requested will not materially change the character or quality of the neighborhood in which it is located, or hinder the proper future development of the surrounding properties;
• No nuisance feature is enlarged;
• The proposed expansion or change shall not create hazardous vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions, nor result in traffic exceeding the capacity of streets and intersections serving the property;
• The proposed expansion or change will not result in noncompliance with off-street parking requirements determined with respect to the nonconforming use so expanded or changed;
• The proposal shall include appropriate drives and walks and the installation of such screening and buffering as may be reasonably necessary to minimize adverse impacts on surrounding land uses;
• The proposal shall not create any new incident of nonconformity, nor increase the degree or extent of any existing nonconformity.