A lobbyist for Oak Park Plaza's developer says owners plan to appeal after the county on Monday turned down two applications for alcohol sales there.
"The county is persecuting two new businesses in the plaza because of the activity of another tenant," said Todd Pressman, a lobbyist for Winbran Corp., which operates the plaza at the corner of Lumsden Road and Kings Avenue.
"The decision is wrong, wrong, wrong, and we absolutely intend to go back to the county and look at modifications and changes we can make."
Residents of Oak Park Townhomes, a 75-home development near the plaza, packed a hearing before the county's zoning master last month. They cited concerns over noise, alcohol sales and lack of parking, issues they said already see due to parties from a business currently in the plaza.
Winbran was seeking variances that would allow alcohol sales at a six-table Jamaican family restaurant and a small liquor store in the plaza.
The plaza is home to O'Brien's Irish Pub and the Shrimp Warehouse, which sell alcohol. Two free-standing buildings under construction in the plaza — a sushi restaurant due to open in August and a Mexican restaurant opening in June — will also sell alcohol.
The hearing master concluded that the plaza failed to prove the variances wouldn't have an adverse effect on surrounding land uses and that the request was inconsistent with the future land use plan.
The decision is a victory for local homeowners, said Gwen Plyler, treasurer of the Oak Park Homeowners Association.
"I am ecstatic," she said. "We don't want any more alcohol establishments around here when we already have problems with the ones we have. It doesn't make any sense to have more."
Residents were concerned variances for the two businesses would open the door to more applications for stores that can sell alcohol.
"We are not Ybor City and this is depreciating our home values further," Plyler said last month.
Nancy Gerille, secretary of the home owners group, had said plaza patrons were already parking in her neighborhood when O'Brien Irish Pub's hosts St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo parties.
"We have to hire an off-duty sheriff's deputy to keep people out," said Gerille, who presented at the zoning hearing an 80-signature petition opposing variances for the plaza.
"This is an undesirable element we don't need," said Oscar Lastinger, president of the homeowners association. "We vehemently oppose this."
Plyler and her neighbors are still wary over Winbran's plans to appeal.
"It's a victory for now," she said. "If they appeal, we are going to be there."
Kevin Brady can be reached at [email protected]