LONGBOAT KEY -- Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Pub will branch out after Longboat Key's Planning and Zoning Board approved a second-floor tree house.
Restauranteur Ed Chiles will add a second-story tree house dining room and move all seats outdoors as part of an extensive renovation for the 169-seat restaurant.
"We're looking forward to improve what we think is a tremendous asset to the Longboat Key community and the greater Sarasota-Manatee community as a whole," Chiles said speaking to reporters following the meeting.
The planning board on Tuesday unanimously approved both a special exception to allow outdoor dining on a second-level treehouse and a site plan amendment to build the tree house along with a regrading of the parking lot and landscaping improvements.
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Unlike other planning boards in the area, the Longboat Key's board is final and does not continue for a town commission vote.
Chiles dropped his request to add 11 seats to the restaurant, a key sticking point. Limited parking gave reason for Longboat Key's planning, zoning and building director to recommend against the added seats during an application review in November because more parking would be required.
Chiles had to reapply to gain the 11 seats because a special exception tied to a 2010 renovation plan expired. A previous exception application was considered to have been made in error.
His plans also don't include any improvements or changes to the historic Rufus and Annie Jordan House that sits next to the restaurant.
As part of the town's requirements, Mar Vista will regrade its parking lot and build a concrete driveway apron and add a row of sod on the shoreline to help avoid silt running into Sarasota Bay, said Alaina Ray, the town's director of planning, zoning and building.
Residents who spoke at the public hearings were concerned about potential noise from diners on the outdoor second floor as well as traffic spilling out into the neighborhood.
"I think going up a second level is irresponsible for this board for such a nice setting of the residential area and is unnecessary," resident Brian Feeney said.
Ray said Mar Vista's plan mitigates noise and roll-down shutters could always be added if complaints warrant more buffering.
"The plan is proposing to screen the upstairs area from adjacent properties with a railing lattice, plants," Ray said. "That can always be enhanced if we receive substantiated complaints about noise."
Resident Stephen Garrod said he would like the restaurant to enclose areas facing Lois Lane and Broadway to attenuate the noise with a denser material.
"Mr. Chiles, I'm asking you to please do your best the first time around and not have us make complaints and retrofit this." said Garrod, a Canadian resident who winters on Longboat.
Board member Andrew Aitken attempted to amend the plan to add Garrod's suggestion but failed for a lack of a second.
Music and amplified speakers won't be allowed in the outdoor dining area, said Lynn Townsend Burnett, project engineer with LTA Engineers representing Chiles. The bar indoors will offer 12 seats.
Residents contested parking requirements but a special exception for parking spaces was not up for a vote as part of the plan.
Mar Vista has already undergone some improvements when it rebuilt a dock to allow boaters to pull up and dine. The tree house includes a proposed elevator as well as stairs for diners. The bottom floor will retain a bar and a retail area similar to Chiles' BeacHhouse Restaurant in Bradenton Beach.
Renovation work is expected to start in fall 2015 and the restaurant would remain open during construction, Chiles said.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter@ImYourChuck