INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – After 13 months of planning, permitting and construction, Aiden Bowles and his family got the final go-ahead from the city to open and operate the Salt Public House at 1309 Gulf Blvd.
The latest delay was caused by the need for the city’s approval for Bowles to have a license to sell alcohol. He appeared before the regular commission meeting Oct. 9.
At the meeting, Bowles indicated he was disappointed that the process had taken so long.
“This is my fourth time here,” he said. “I have invested a lot of time and money into this project.”
In fact he said the project has cost him $750,000, but he said it was necessary because of the state of the building when he leased it.
“I had two choices, invest $20,000 in paint, use the grandfather clause and open up as it was, or do what I did,” he said. “When we got here the place was disgusting, there was raw sewage under the floor and the place was a fire hazard.”
Bowles said the work he had done on the restaurant/bar was extensive.
“We have built ADA approved bathrooms and put ramps at the front and back of the building,” he said. “It is state of the art. We have held back no expense. I would ask you to give this request favorable consideration.”
Bowles said he thought he had final approval when he had to go to the city for a permit for one last construction job. It was then he learned that he needed the city alcohol license to operate. Without it he was out of luck.
“I turned a dump into a jewel. I never thought it could fall on its face,” he said.
With that, a lineup of residents rose to speak on his behalf.
“This city needs to give a packet to anyone who wants to open an establishment. You don’t do that,” said resident Gordon Obarski.
“This gentleman has put a lot into this; he deserves a chance,” said resident Patti Muneio.
Resident Kelly Cisarik added her voice to the others.
“I support Mr. Bowles project. I’m happy he decided to go ahead with it.”
Resident John Hurley, who has property across Gulf Boulevard, was the lone dissenting voice at the meeting.
“We’ve endured five years of headaches regarding noise from the previous owner,” he said.
He wanted the city’s assurance that something would be written into Bowles’ permit that would prevent noise.
Bowles later said he has no intention of ever having music, live or otherwise, outside on the patio and the construction of the building is such that any noise inside would barely be heard outside.
“From what I hear the previous owners went out of their way to annoy the neighbors,” he said.
Prior to taking a vote, the mayor and commission had an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.
“Thank you for investing in our community,” said Commissioner Ed Hoofnagle. “Our noise ordinances are adequate, and we have to remember we live on a beach in a commercial area.”
Commissioners Phil Wrobel and Phil Hanna both apologized to Bowles for the trouble he had in dealing with the city in not knowing that he needed the final license.
“We’re lucky this man is investing in our community,” said Wrobel.
“I wholeheartedly support this project,” said Hanna.
“It looks beautiful, best of luck,” said Commissioner Nick Palomba.
“We appreciate your coming here,” said Mayor Cookie Kennedy.
With all that having been said, it was hardly surprising that the commission gave unanimous approval to Bowles for his Salt Public House project. He said he hopes to have it in full operation in a month.
Resident ordered to remove trees
The city was asked what it is going to do about a resident who won’t remove Australian pine trees from his property.
Attorney Sheryl Hunter, representing resident Richard Porraro, said over a year ago Porraro complained to the city about the trees on his neighbor Bert Valery’s property.
Hunter provided documentation including an exchange of letters between Porraro and the city and Valery and the city. In essence, Porraro complained that the trees were unstable and in danger of falling onto his property and house.
Valery’s letter claimed that the trees were not unstable.
However, the city agreed with Porraro, and the code enforcement officer ordered Valery to remove the trees, which he not done so far.
Hunter said the deadline for the removal of the trees has passed and wondered what the city intends to do.
She said her client is willing the split the cost of removing the trees, estimated between $12,000 and $15,000.
City officials did not respond to Hunter’s query.
Commission OKs increase in solid waste fees
Commissioners unanimously approved new solid waste fees.
Residential fees for a single-family home will go from $18.43 to $20.27 a month. Multi-family homes will go to $19.26 from $17.51.
Dumpster rates increase according to the size of the dumpster. The largest, a 6-yard dumpster, will now cost $506 a month, up over $100 from the old rate.
Finance Committee gets two new members
Diane Flagg and Earl Wesson Jr. filled the vacancies on the Finance Committee. They join current members Rebecca Sacra, Jean Scott and Frank Waters.
Four other residents – Jim English, David Watt, Don House and Kathryn Blankenship Alvarez – had indicated a willingness to serve on the finance committee. The city will reach out to them to serve on other committees that have vacancies.