Bridge Tender requests met with resistance

Bridge Tender Dockside Bar
The Bridge Tender Inn’s Dockside Bar needs additional city approvals to be compliant with city code. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

Bridge Tender Inn owner Fred Bartizal is trying to bring his Dockside Bar into full compliance, but some Planning and Zoning Board members may have exceeded their limited authority when reviewing his requests on June 21.

As an extension of the Bridge Tender Inn, the Dockside Bar was approved for open-air dining in 2012. The area was originally permitted for 24 seats, but over the years has expanded. Bartizal is now seeking city approval for 120 outdoor seats along the waterfront east of Bay Drive South, across the street from the establishment’s primary structure.

Last week, the board was asked to recommend City Commission approval or denial of the comp plan amendment and major development plan that would bring the establishment as it now exists into compliance.

Bartizal was represented by planner Darenda Marvin, with members of the management team and an attorney also present. When the hearing began, Marvin asked Garrett if either the comp plan amendment or the major development plan would be considered as a quasi-judicial matter. Garrett said both were legislative.

A major development plan is generally quasi-judicial and a comp plan amendment is generally legislative. A legislative hearing allows the board much greater latitude and a quasi-judicial hearing is more restrictive.

Board Concerns

Board member John Metz questioned whether the Dockside property physically abuts Bridge Street, which is a required to receive parking exceptions. Marvin said the two properties are tied together by a unity of title which means the rights of the main structure extend to the Dockside area. Garrett said the city accepted the two areas as unified in 2012 when the permit was issued, but board chair John Burns noted that permit was based on 24 seats rather than 120.

Metz cited safety concerns about patrons and employees crossing South Bay Drive where there is no crosswalk and only a short stretch of sidewalk. He also cited concerns about Bay Drive being the only north and south alternate to Gulf Drive in that area. Marvin said it was the city’s responsibility to install sidewalks and/or a crosswalk, not Bartizal’s.

Metz fears increasing the permitted use from 24 seats to 120 seats would intensify problems and he suggested the waterfront bar and dining area be moved across the street to the vacant space used for parking.

Board member Reed Mapes suggested there needs to be some give and take in order for the property owner’s requests to be approved. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Member Reed Mapes cited concerns about parking, pedestrian safety, the number of bathrooms, the number of seats and more.

“There’s got to be some negotiations to get through this and some of that’s going to be parking, bathroom repairs, facilities upgrades and a sidewalk. If we’re going to give you what you’re asking for then we get a little bit back,” he said.

Lingering concerns

The hearing was continued, but on Thursday Vice Mayor John Chappie, having attended the hearing, requested a memo from City Attorney Ricinda Perry that clarifies general hearing practices and procedures.

As of Monday, the memo had not been issued, but Perry e-mailed Garrett and informed him that she’d been contacted by Bartizal’s legal team.

“They shared with me a number of issues that came up yesterday at the hearing, specifically that the proceeding was legislative and that the major development application was not treated as quasi-judicial,  therefore opening up a number of things outside of the confines of the review criteria. They mentioned that they were asked by a P&Z member what they were offering the city in exchange for the approval and have been given a laundry list of new items to prepare for the board,” Perry wrote.