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Neighbors snap at Tarpon Turtle restaurant's plan

Jack Willie’s Tarpon Turtle Grill and Marina wants to expand its parking lot. City police have received 160 calls in two years about noise and traffic.

RITA FARLOW | Times

Jack Willie’s Tarpon Turtle Grill and Marina wants to expand its parking lot. City police have received 160 calls in two years about noise and traffic.

TARPON SPRINGS — For years, patrons of the tiny Tarpon Turtle restaurant and nearby residents coexisted peacefully along the marshy banks of Lake Tarpon.

They shared stunning sunsets and stories about "Six O'Clock Charley," the big alligator who often showed up during happy hour.

Then the quaint lakeside restaurant and neighboring fish camp were bought, torn down and rebuilt, reopening two years ago as Jack Willie's Tarpon Turtle Grill and Marina.

Neighbors say the new restaurant, much larger than the original, has generated more noise, trash and traffic than they can handle.

And a plan to expand the establishment's parking lot is causing even more consternation among those neighbors.

"We've got new homes being built next to it. It just doesn't make any sense," said Barbara Lawlor, who lives to the south of the proposed parking lot in the Lake Tarpon Sail and Tennis Club.

Lawlor and several of her neighbors in recent weeks have complained to the City Commission, asking them to deny the restaurant's request at their next meeting.

Neighbors say more parking — and consequently, more patrons — will only make matters worse.

Among the complaints:

• Loud, "amplified" music from live bands playing on the deck until 11 p.m. on the weekends.

• Litter blowing onto nearby properties and into the lake.

• Garbage and cooking odors.

• Parking and traffic problems, as well as late-night noise from departing patrons.

Neighbor Marsha McKenna said she has called the restaurant several times to ask that the music be turned down.

"Sometimes we can hear the noise inside our condominium clear enough to hear what they're saying," she said. "To me, that's too loud."

Tarpon Springs police have received 160 calls about the restaurant for noise and parking complaints over the past two years, Capt. Jeff Young said.

Neighbors said they originally thought the restaurant would have 150 seats, but now believe it seats more than 250.

Restaurant owner Don Alvino was unavailable for comment, but a report by the city's planning and zoning staff shows that the City Commission in 2004 approved a plan that would allow for up to 165 seats.

In June 2006, the commission approved 25 additional parking spaces, without specific seating limitations. Under the city's land development code, the extra parking spaces increased allowable seating to 240.

But a recent inspection by city staff found 87 parking spots at the site, which would allow for 267 seats.

Because of the outcry from neighbors, the city staff has recommended the Planning and Zoning Board and commissioners reconsider the terms of the restaurant's liquor license.

Neighbor Marie Bean said noise and odors from the restaurant drift throughout the neighborhood of single-family townhomes and condominiums.

"It is a beautiful spot," Bean said. "It is a residential area and suddenly, this elephant has been placed right in our midst."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

>>fast facts

Meeting tonight

An item on the proposed parking lot expansion is scheduled for the city commissioners' work session, to be held immediately following a special session at 6:30 p.m. today at City Hall, 324 E Pine St.

Neighbors snap at Tarpon Turtle restaurant's plan 05/26/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 27, 2008 2:50pm]
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