06-06-2012, 06:22 AM #1
New Gulf Front Restaurant Coming to SoWal
Miramar Beach could soon see a new beachfront restaurant popping up along Scenic Gulf Drive.
At their fifth meeting on the issue, Walton County Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday night to approve plans for a 6,792-square-foot restaurant an about two acres along the Gulf of Mexico despite vehement opposition from some residents.
“We’re happy with the board’s decision,” said Bob Bonezzi, president of Bonezzi Development Co. Group.
The restaurant will abut the Avalon Dunes condominiums.
Condo owners and neighboring residents had filed a petition with the county to contest the development. They have concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety, and argued that the large restaurant would not be a good fit for their neighborhood.
About 50 people attended the meeting Tuesday night. After the vote, one angered resident began yelling at commissioners and was asked to leave the boardroom.
The residents also started a website and online campaign to rally opposition to the project.
“While I don’t disagree with some of the concerns … this project meets the minimum criteria,” said Commissioner Larry Jones, before making a motion to approve the project.
David Theriaque, an attorney for the developer, said the property is slated for coastal center use, which allows for some residential or commercial developments.
He argued that in those areas, some impact on neighboring properties is expected.
“When you have a mixture of uses you have a mixture of impacts,” he said.
But Dana Matthews, the attorney for the Avalon Dunes Homeowners Association, argued that the impact on the condos that neighbor the property would be too great.
He noted that nearby Pompano Joe’s — also owned by Bonezzi — is smaller, at 4,500 square feet.
“And we know what goes on down there,” he said. “It’s not a bad concept. It’s not a bad idea for South Walton to have another beach restaurant. But, it’s a bad idea to put it where they are trying to put it. Don’t build that intense of a project right there in the middle of these condominiums.”
After the meeting, Matthews said the biggest disappointment about the vote was that by approving the project commissioners also are allowing the developer to use the gravel San Antonio Street — which pedestrians and property owners have historically used to access the beach — for deliveries.
The homeowners association filed a lawsuit to stop the development, but in April a judge ruled against them. They have appealed the decision.
Tuesday’s approval is pending resolution of the legal conflicts.
Commissioners Cecilia Jones and Sara Comander voted against the project.
Jones said after the meeting that she drove to the Avalon Dunes condominiums and stood on one of the balconies that would face the restaurant.
“My gut feeling is it would be hard if you had a bedroom right there,” she said.
Just before the vote, the developers agreed to change their 20-foot buffer to a 30-foot buffer on the side of the Avalon Dunes condos, and to reduce their buffer from 20 to 10 feet on the side that runs along the street. They also agreed to put in an 8-foot privacy fence and 12 feet of vegetation to mitigate noise concerns.
“We want to be good neighbors and we want to minimize our impact,” Bonezzi said after the meeting.
Matthews said residents will evaluate their options to continue to fight the project.
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