ST. PETE BEACH —The opening of a new Caddy's restaurant here continues to be delayed pending resolution of a legal battle led by residents opposed to a plan for an open-air window at the rear of the restaurant.
A nearly six-hour hearing Tuesday before a city special master hearing officer did little to advance the dispute.
What is at issue is the contention by some residents that Caddy's open window facing the Intracoastal Waterway would allow noise from music and activity in the restaurant to disturb nearby condominiums and single family homes that face the same waterway.
The residents are challenging the city's decision to issue a permit for the renovation of the former Silas Dent's restaurant both before the city's special master and in court.
While the legal wrangling goes on, work on the restaurant renovation has been stopped.
Tuesday, attorneys for Caddy's failed to get a partial permit to complete interior renovations. Instead, the hearing master set a new date, Aug. 1, for resuming the hearing.
Part of the problem is the city has no rules in place for appeals of administratively approved permits.
Plans approved by the city administration not only call for a single open-air window at the rear of the restaurant, but also a rear exit door that would allow patrons to enter and exit the restaurant from boats that might tie up to the restaurant's dock.
However, outdoor dining would be restricted to the front of the restaurant.
"It's not about Caddy's and never has been," said resident Ed Stapor, one of the residents who filed the latest court actions against the city.
Stapor says he and the other other residents feel the city has not followed its own codes in allowing the Caddy's renovations to go forward.
"We firmly believe this needs a public dialogue given the negative and profound impact on so many residents," Stapor said.
There never has been a public hearing on the Caddy's renovation since the project does not require approval by the City Commission.
The residents' attorney, Tim Weber, argues that the city's charter, which prohibits the commission from interfering with administrative decisions, therefore also prohibits allowing a special master appointed by the commission to rule on permit appeals.
The restaurant will be the sixth Caddy's in the Tampa Bay area. The original is on the Gulf of Mexico in Treasure Island and others are located in Gulfport, Indian Shores, downtown St. Petersburg and Bradenton. A seventh is planned for Madeira Beach.
The most recent lawsuit was filed in Pinellas Circuit Court last week challenging the special master hearing process, arguing that it is illegal and would create "irreparable harm" for the residents.
The city's attorney responded Friday that the circuit court lacks the jurisdiction to review a city administrative decision in this case, particularly since the hearing officer had not yet ruled on the case.
Meanwhile, Caddy's new location at 5501 Gulf Blvd. remains shuttered.