Planning Board approves Sami's transition to sit-down restaurant

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An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sami's representative agreed to add an additional handicap parking spot.

First it was a convenience store. Then it was a fast food restaurant. Now Sami's Pizza & Grill is transforming itself once again, this time into a full-fledged, sit-down restaurant. Of course, a big change like that requires the approval of the Marco Island Planning Board, which met Friday to discuss the project.

As with most projects on the island, parking – and making sure there's enough of it – was a major point of deliberation among the board members. Sami's currently has 17 parking spaces; to be a sit-down restaurant, it needs one parking space per four seats, which would equal 28 parking spaces.

Jason Smalley, the Planning Board's city staff liaison, explained that the city is granting Sami's three parking credits: one for improved pedestrian access to the building, one for the addition of an onsite recycling facility and one for an increase in pervious surfaces, so Sami's will only have 25 physical parking spaces.

Some of the board members wondered if that would be enough, especially taking into account employee parking, which the city's code doesn't address. Board member Ron Goldstein also questioned the size and layout of the parking spaces.

"I'm finding the entire rear extremely tight," he said. "I personally do not think these spaces in the rear for cars and having people sitting back there and having trees...it doesn't work. That's a very small space. It doesn't work for me."

Board member Frank Mulligan agreed.

"I don't think it's going to work," he said. "And that alley's one way, so the people have to start a full block up to utilize any of those compact spots you have in the back."

He also questioned whether there should be two handicap parking spaces instead of one. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires one handicap parking space per 25 parking spaces; although Sami's only has 25 physical parking spaces, Mulligan reminded the board that it technically has 28 spaces, thanks to the credits from the city, and if those credits count as spaces with regard to city code compliance, then they should count as spaces with regard to ADA compliance, as well, he argued.

However, it was determined that the additional handicap space was not required, and the board unanimously approved the site development plan.

In other business

The board members debated about the definitions of impervious, pervious and permeable surfaces, and whether they should increase the pervious surface requirements for new homes, which would, they figured, essentially limit the size of them.

However, residents at the meeting said increasing the pervious surface requirements would not limit the size of homes; instead, it would just force builders to build up rather than out, and having multi-level homes in a community with an aging population is far from ideal. Plus, taller homes would not preserve the small town feel of the island, which the board has repeatedly said is one of its primary goals.

The board ultimately agreed to turn the issue over to city staff, who will present their opinions at a future meeting.

Planning Board's next meeting is 9 a.m. Dec. 15 in the City Council's chambers, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

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