Pine Avenue restaurant proposed

Ben Sato and the Sato family hope to replace this existing residential structure with a ground-level restaurant that also features upper level living space. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA – On Thursday, May 23, city commissioners are scheduled to discuss the proposed construction of a 45-seat restaurant and residential structure at 415 Pine Ave.

Thursday’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and the public hearing will allow for public input.

City commissioners will be asked to approve the site plan application that includes requests for two parking-related special exceptions pertaining to an offsite parking arrangement with Roser Memorial Community Church.

The site plan approval application was reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Board on May 14. The application lists Gohandesuyo LLC as the applicant and property owner. The LLC is registered to local Realtor Barbara Sato and her Realtor son, Jason Sato.

Urban Planner Monica Simpson is representing the Satos in this permitting matter. She said
Barbara’s son, Ben Sato, hopes to operate the restaurant and occupy the residential unit above.

The applicant’s report Simpson provided the city proposes the existing two-story residential structure be razed and replaced by a two-story building that includes the ground-level restaurant space, second-level living space, a rooftop terrace and an in-ground pool. Simpson’s report notes the pool and the rooftop terrace would not be used by restaurant patrons.

Simpson told the planning board the existing two-story structure was built in 1970 and is structurally sound but is not habitable due to electrical issues.

Simpson’s report states 15 spaces are needed for the 45-seat restaurant, plus one additional parking space for employees and one additional parking space for the residential unit.

She proposes five parking spaces be located on site and 12 additional parking spaces be provided through a shared parking agreement with Roser Memorial Community Church.

The April 9 staff report prepared by City Planner Robin Meyer initially disagreed with Simpson’s parking calculations and stated city code required 22 parking spaces. During last week’s planning board meeting, Meyer said he later consulted with City Attorney Becky Vose and they agree that 17 parking spaces are required.

Citing city code, Meyer’s report states off-site parking must be located within 300 feet of the perimeter of the development. Meyer’s report states the applicant is requesting two special exceptions: one for the majority of the parking to be located off-site and a second to allow for off-site parking approximately 900 feet from the proposed development site.

Revised plan

The original site plan proposed a 52-seat restaurant, residential space, pool and five on-site parking spaces. That plan prompted a petition and some letters of opposition from surrounding property owners which contributed to the public hearings being pushed back from April until May.

The revised plan Simpson presented last week includes the lower seating capacity and the off-site parking agreement.

On April 12, Ben Sato drafted and distributed a letter thanking the surrounding property owners for expressing their concerns. His letter notes he is currently working in the family business as a rental property manager and a maintenance technician, but he has long dreamed of opening his own restaurant.

“While I enjoy being a part of the family business, it is not my true passion. I am a professional chef and I belong in a kitchen,” his letter says.

“I’ve lived on Pine Avenue for three years and I sympathize with your concerns. I will be living on-site with my fiancé and we want to build our life there, be great neighbors and be stewards of the community,” Sato’s letter says.

The planning board voted 4-2 in favor of recommending city commission approval of the proposed site plan. Monika Beard, Dr. Jose Erbella, Margaret Jenkins and Mark Short voted in favor of recommending commission approval. Jeff Rodencal and chairman Jon Crane opposed the recommended approval.

The board’s recommended approval includes commission approval of the off-site parking spaces, signage directing restaurant customers to the church parking lot, the city being noticed on the lease for the parking spaces, the property not being used as rental property unless approved by the city, the applicant working with the city to ensure the safest pedestrian access to and from the property and calls for a rooftop garden to be placed at the rear of the terrace to provide landscape buffering for the neighbors.

City commissioners can accept or reject any or all of the board’s recommendations.