1. Archive

Gators' plans hinge on traffic study

A traffic study should determine whether the owners of Gators Cafe & Saloon can convert a beachfront house into a restaurant and bar.

On Thursday, City Manager Peter Lombardi told the planning and zoning board to postpone a decision on a request made by Agnes E. Rice Enterprises until the effect on streets and surrounding homes is known.

The ruling was delayed until Sept. 19, when the board will meet again to review the findings. To proceed, Agnes E. Rice, whose son Sid Rice attended Thursday's hearing, would have to pay for the study.

"When you have all these regulations, it costs more money and that's why you don't see Treasure Island changing," said Sid Rice, co-owner of Gators on John's Pass, after the hearing. "The island's not going to be developed."

Rice said he will do whatever the city requires to convert what is known to many residents as "the rock house" at 12725 Sunshine Lane into an 84-seat cafe and gift shop.

"I think we would have the right, if we did not agree with the firm, to find one we like also," Jeffrey Stone said of the study. Stone is Rice's consultant and former St. Pete Beach city manager.

The 14-member planning and zoning board did not hear comments from the dozen or so residents who attended the hearing. Nor did it receive a presentation from Stone.

"We'll now have time to organize our opposition to it," said Bob Dowling, 49, who lives on Lagoon Lane, near Gators.

The two-story rock house, which now serves as apartments, sits across from Gators on the west side of Gulf Boulevard. In that area, restaurants and bars are permitted in hotels and motels but not as standalone establishments.

Nearby residents, including the general manager of the Nordvind Beach Resort, fear more traffic, parking problems and noise along Sunshine Lane, which is about as wide as a single car.

"My people want solitude," said Stephen H. Walker, Nordvind's general manager. "The ambiance is solitude, and that's about to change."

Rice's application calls for converting the first-floor of the building into a gift shop and cafe. Most of the space _ 1,010 square feet _ would be dedicated to outdoor seating at the rear of the rock house.

The plans also call for constructing a wooden boardwalk that would stretch from Gators, under the John's Pass Bridge, along the seawall to the cafe.

_ Leanora Minai covers the beaches for the Times. She can be reached at 893-8406 or by e-mail.