After several postponements on the Sanibel Planning Commission meeting agendas and multiple revisions, the Bennett's Fresh Roast restaurant won city approval Tuesday to move ahead with its project.
The property owned by Joe Schwartzel of JCKC, LLC, is located at 1020 Periwinkle Way. Bob Grissinger, owner of Bennett's Fresh Roast, proposes to convert an existing commercial parcel into a coffee, donut and sandwich shop with indoor and outdoor seating. The project requires major renovations inside and out as the building most recently housed a real estate business, but has been vacant for several years.
Extensive revisions to the site plan have been made over several months, the applicant and contractors working closely with city planning, natural resources and engineering staff. The result was the conditional use and development application with two variance requests regarding setback and vegetation buffer zones on the site plan.
The vacant property at 1020 Periwinkle Way is destined to become Bennett's Fresh Roast, a coffee, donut and sandwich shop after Sanibel's Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit and two variances to its application Tuesday.
"We support the east side variance to the vegetation buffer zone because the adjoining property is Pond Apple Park conservation land that will not be developed," said city planner Roy Gibson. "We also support the front encroachment of the 100-foot setback requirement to construct an outside deck for dining because of the applicant complying with all suggested staff changes to the site plan."
Changes to the site plan included placement of the outside deck, addition of a second driveway to gain entry, 40 parking spaces, landscape buffers, wetland preservation and complying with the monitoring of an American Bald Eagle nest located within 660-feet of the property. Applicants also accepted providing an easement at the front of the property for possible future shared use (bike) path expansion as well as possible connection to the Pond Apple Park trail at the rear of the property.
"Considering the number of revisions that have taken place, I think the plan before you today is a thoroughbred and not a camel by committee," applicant attorney Steven Hartsell told commissioners. "City staff made good suggestions, but no way did I want to bring a variance request to the planning commission. Having complied with all the suggestions and multiple revisions, staff assured me they would support the variances. We are in agreement with all the staff conditions."
Commissioners expressed three main concerns - traffic entering and exiting the property, pedestrian/bike safety access and installation of a crosswalk in the area since Bennett's Fresh Roast shares close proximity to already popular Dairy Queen and Lazy Flamingo destinations.
"This is a good example of having tough rules and staff working with the applicant to make it work," said commissioner Chuck Ketteman. "This is how the process is supposed to work."
Ketteman and commission vice-chairman Dr. Phillip Marks were the most vocal about "an obvious need" for a crosswalk in the area.
By coincidence, that area of Periwinkle is considered one of the city's three "traffic hot spots" that are being studied over the next several months to identify necessary improvements.
After extensive discussion of all three points, Michael Valiquette, who was re-elected as commission chairman for another year at the start of the meeting, closed the public hearing and made the motions to approve both variances, approve the conditional use permit and the development permit, and staff to present the final resolutions at the next commission meeting on Jan. 22. Valiquette's motions were unanimously approved.