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Date of Issue: September 15, 2005

Pine Avenue project, Waterfront Restaurant OK'd

The nearly two-year ordeal of Robert and Nicki Hunt of Anna Maria is over, at least in the "preliminary" sense.

As expected, the Anna Maria City Commission wasted little time in unanimously approving the Hunts' preliminary site plan for a retail-office-residential unit at 303 Pine Ave.

The commission had originally rejected the site plan presented in August 2004, but the Hunts took their case to circuit court and won a reversal from Judge Marc Gilner.

The Hunts propose to build a three-story ROR unit, with the ground floor and 50 percent of the second floor occupied by retail space and the remainder to be their residence.

Controversy erupted when a majority of city commissioners decided at the August 2004 site plan hearing that the city's comprehensive plan meant only two floors of habitable space could be built for an ROR unit. The Hunts' plan was rejected in a 3-2 vote, despite a recommendation for approval from the planning and zoning board.

The Hunts must return to the commission for final site plan approval.

Waterfront Restaurant

While the commission dispensed with the 303 Pine Ave. site plan in just a few minutes, it spent more than an hour listening to amendments to the Waterfront Restaurant's final site plan, which had already been approved by the commission.

The restaurant has been closed since March 2004 after an arson fire destroyed much of the structure.

Owner Jason Suzor discussed each of the more than 30 modifications to the final site plan with the commission, and commissioners agreed that all but one item was not substantial enough to warrant Suzor's return to the planning and zoning board to again review the plans.

However, the commission agreed that a railing Suzor added around the deck of the restaurant constitutes a violation of the city's setback requirements. Suzor said he added the railing for the safety of patrons on the deck.

Suzor could apply for a variance or return the entire site plan to the P&Z board for a recommendation, but he opted to remove the railing and install landscaping around the deck. Building Official Kevin Donohue said the landscaping would not violate the setback rules.

Once Suzor agreed to remove the railing, the commission unanimously approved the amended plan.

Suzor said he hopes to open by the end of September or early October to be ready for the winter tourist season.

"It's been a long financial journey," he said. "We've been out of business 19 months and we're really looking forward to being in business. I think Anna Maria will really like what we've done."

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