A room full of supporters, along with a few concerned residents, attended a hearing last week regarding the Old Fish House Marina's request for a special exception for the business.
Deputy Hearing Examiner Laura Belflower explained to the crowd before the hearing began that after it closed Wednesday afternoon, she will make a site visit to the Olde Fish House Marina. She said the decision will be a written decision, order, that will become public record within the next two weeks.
The hearing was held for a special exception for the Olde Fish House Marina Industrial Marine Zone (IM) to allow a group two restaurant with a beer and wine liquor license in conjunction with outdoor seating. The marina has to complete a parking lot and receive a certificate of completion before it can obtain a liquor license.
Mike Roeder, director of zoning and land use planning with Knott Ebelini Hart, said in 1990 the Lee County Commissioners classified the whole property as IM, with a small piece being determined as commercial tourism (CT) in 1992 because the property owners wanted more flexibility.
It was stated that the establishment 10-12 years ago began as a take-out restaurant that eventually morphed into a restaurant.
Nettie Richardson, zoning principal planner, said although the property has IM and CT zoning, the majority is taking place on the IM property. She said that hearing was about legitimizing the restaurant that is there.
"This protects them, but allows them to expand and continue on," she said.
Although many topics were discussed during the meeting, a few issues received more feedback than others.
Part of the discussion touched upon the live music that is currently taking place three times a week.
Richardson said she had only received two phone calls of concern regarding the Olde Fish House, which touched upon the noise of outdoor music. She said she could not find any issues when she ran a report to see if there were any complaints for noise or nuisance from live music at the Olde Fish House.
"The music has been there for about six years," Roeder said. "It's been ongoing. There have been no regulations on them. They are allowed to have music now."
The music is currently not regulated, but rather the Sheriff's Office is called upon if a resident has a complaint about noise disturbance.
Right now the Olde Fish House is allowed to have live music outdoors on Wednesday and Friday from 6-9 p.m. and on Sunday from 2-6 p.m. The music, he said, is confined to two areas of seating.
Two residents of the Matlacha community shared their concerns about the noise they hear when the live music is playing at the Olde Fish House.
Russell Roberts said although he thinks the owners are doing a fantastic job at the Olde Fish House, he has heard the music from time to time. He said the wind and who is playing are determining factors of if he can hear the music or not.
A petition, which began circulating in June, was provided for the hearing examiner with 47 signatures to stop loud music in close proximity to residential areas. The petition stated that they do not want music from bands to continue at excess volumes as it interferes with the quality of life.
"We agree with everything you are doing there," Roberts said. "Planning is fantastic, top notch place to go."
His concern is the music.
"It depends on the band and the wind," Roberts said. "Couple nights it sounded like it was on my docks."
Joyce Worth, another concerned resident, spoke about the music as well. She said there have been a number of occasions when she was outside with friends and family and was forced to go inside because they could not hear each other talk.
"A lot of people are elderly, they go to bed early," Worth said. "They were concerned with the volume that they can't get their nap and sleep."
She said she hopes they can form an agreement that if the music is too loud, they can call and the Olde Fish House will drop down the volume.
"We don't want to be put in the position to where we have to call the sheriff's," Worth said.
She said it comes down to the quality of life, which they do not want it to be disrupted.
Michael Gibbons, another resident, said if the Olde Fish House was an industrial marine complex, there would be welding and hammering six days a week. He asked the crowd, would you rather have the noise or be inconvenienced with good music from time to time.
When special events, fund-raisers or festivals are held, the Olde Fish House Marina has to apply for a temporary permit for the music.
Another issue addressed was the outdoor seating due to the consumption of wine and beer.
Richardson said the limited hours of entertainment have to coincide with consumption of alcoholic beverages with the outdoor seating area. She said the area must be roped off during outdoor entertainment as well as the boat ramp being closed during that time.
"The beer and wine must be served at the table side," Richardson said. "Servers have to come up and take your order, it has to be brought out by a person running the restaurant."
Another issue that came up was to have the proper signage to keep the alcoholic consumption within the premise because individuals have the tendency to walk around Matlacha, officials said. The signs will help inform individuals that if they are drinking they need to stay within a certain area.
Richardson said there has to be signage on each of the 10 tables stating that there is no alcohol beyond this table.
Many individuals spoke before the crowd early Wednesday afternoon to share their thoughts of the Olde Fish House Marina.
Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce President Elect Steve Timcak said he is in support of granting the Olde Fish House the IM zoning that would allow the restaurant with outdoor seating in Matlacha.
"These folks have shown their care and support for the whole region," he said. "Good folks and we back them."
Judy Souders, co-founder of Wounded Warrior Anglers of America Inc, also spoke about the Olde Fish House due to her close proximity to the location.
"The Olde Fish House means a lot to everyone in the community and outside of the community," she said.
Jim Normandin was also in complete support of what the Olde Fish House is doing.
"We feel like home at this facility," he said.
Normandin said the staff stayed on site when Tropical Storm Isaac posed a threat to the area.
"They did not leave, they made sure that anybody on the island needed something or a place they were available," he said. "I can't say that about other facilities. This place was and that meant a lot to this community."